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Bishop England boys’ soccer coach Ed Khouri was feeling good.
His Bishops had just prevailed in an emotional 4-3 sudden-death win over Class AA Upstate upstart Indian Land.
The 17-7-1 Bishops latest soccer prize was the centerpiece of a post-match celebration in the parking lot at Gilbert High’s Leonard Price Field, site of the 2013 state title matches.
Khouri, taking a break from the team celebration, noted the match’s impact.
“It was a great game for both schools,” Khouri said.
The veteran Bishops’ coach wasn’t just providing lip service.
“This was a tough match and we expected it,” he said. “We didn’t take Indian Land lightly.”
If they had, the Bishops quickly discovered an inspired Indian Land team came to play with a quest of nothing less than the Class AA state title trophy.
The determined Warriors, in the state title match for the second straight season, bolted to a 2-0 lead before the Bishops responded with three straight goals to take a 3-2 lead.
The Warriors answered to tie the match at 3-all. Then, it was about survival, battling through a scoreless second half, two 10-minute overtime sessions and most of a five-minute sudden death, not to mention a warm, spring day.
With 19 seconds to play, B-E freshman Joel Bunting connected on a nine-yard shot to seal the emotional win.
“It was well-placed,” Khouri said of Bunting’s gamer.
Khouri said the Bishops’ win, which gave them a state-record 16 state championships, was no small feat.
To reach the state title match, B-E had to defeat defending state champion and Charleston-area soccer rival Academic Magnet, winning 1-0 after prevailing on penalty kicks.
That was the same Academic Magnet team, which had defeated IL 5-0 for the 2012 Class AA state crown.
“That was a very draining match with Academic Magnet,” said Khouri. “Our coaches did a good job of getting us prepared for Indian Land.”
Bishop England soon found it was in another emotional battle-royal.
After IL senior Anthony Cutrone connected on a direct kick to tie the match at 3-all, it eventually came down to sudden death and Bunting’s goal beat the clock to edge the Warriors.
The elated Bishops mobbed their new hero, while the Warriors, who gave it their all, dropped to the turf in disappointment and near exhaustion.
The Warriors, from the time they fell in the 2012 state title match, were determined to return to the state championship match and take home the state crown and gold medals.
Khouri was happy his team won, but expects IL will have its day in due time.
“They will win,” he said. “They have that Discoveries Soccer Club in Rock Hill and that makes a difference. They will be back.”
As they say, you have to walk before you run. The Warriors are making strides, major steps from last year to now, and their day will come.
I think Khouri’s on the money. Look how far the Warriors came this year and how close they were to that state championship thrill.