Lexington soccer roars back to stun Chapin, earn spot in Class 5A championship

·3 min read

The old third-time-is-a-charm cliché has been around forever.

Lexington boys soccer coach Will Gettys put a twist on his team’s third meeting of the year with Chapin, this time around being for the 5A Lower State championship Tuesday night.

In the Eagles’ “first” time playing the Wildcats, they found a team that doubled down on defense, and while giving up a first-half goal, rallied in the second half to tie, then punch in two overtime goals to seal a 3-1 victory at Cecil Woolbright Field

“Our approach was that we had played Chapin twice already, but they had not played us,” Gettys explained. “I feel like we didn’t play our best the first two times, and if we showed up tonight and played the way we did the first two rounds of the playoffs, we were gonna come out OK.”

Lexington moves on to play upper state champion Riverside on Friday night at Irmo’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium at 7:30. p.m.

“It was great to play this lower state championship so close to home, I knew we would have an awesome student section supporting us,” Gettys said. “Being at Irmo Friday, I know we’re going to have an awesome crowd. We are pumped. Holy cow.”

Chapin defeated Lexington twice in the regular season on its way to the Region 5-5A championship.

Chapin (17-2) got on the scoreboard first when Jovan Tirado headed a ball just inside the left upright of the net and out of the reach of Lexington goalkeeper Braden Guliano. That goal came in the 39th minute of regulation, just short of intermission.

“We needed to be just a little bit more hungry in the box, we talked about that at halftime,” Gettys said. “If there’s a loose ball in the box, you have to sacrifice your body and get it in the back of the net.”

It took Lexington (20-3) 29 more minutes to find a goal, this one a ball off the head of Trace Blakely at the 68th minute. The teams battled to a draw until the end of regulation.

By then, the Lexington crowd in the visiting stands was seething with energy, and in the fifth minute of the 20-minute overtime period, the Wildcats rewarded their fans.

Franklin Spires lined up a penalty kick and booted it about 25 yards. The ball bounced swiftly into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal.

Just short of the midway point of overtime, Jaxon Keene got a quick kick into the net to ensure Lexington’s victory.

“We had the momentum. We knew we were gonna win when we got that first one,” Keene said. “We knew it wasn’t over with their first goal, we knew we were gonna score. We hadn’t been shut out all season, and we had high hopes the whole time.”

Guliano, in spite of giving up Chapin’s only goal of the game, made sure that the Eagles could not rally. When Owen Collins squared up before Guliano for a penalty kick, the Eagle midfielder struck hard from 12 yards out. The shot went straight at Guiliano, and he punched it out of the goal.

“We lost to them twice, and we had to come back,” Guliano said. “These people in the stands, they were getting on my nerves. I had to show them what I was made of.”

That effort, with just a few minutes remaining in overtime, brought the Lexington players and crowd to a roar, which did not subside much at all until the final whistle.

“We just kind of feed off that energy and keep getting stronger and stronger and stronger,” Gettys said of his team’s overtime resurgence. “This is an awesome group of kids. Unbelievable.”