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Jackets rally to edge Warriors

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By The Staff

Host Buford won a hard-fought soccer match, taking a 2-1 win over Indian Land on Thursday night.
In the first half, both teams battled, creating opportunities, but the defenses held strong and the first half was scoreless.
Indian Land took a 1-0 lead as the Warriors’ senior Joe Tombs brushed the ball to the right from out on the left wing, and took a great shot, to put the Warriors up, 1-0.
Buford battled to answer the goal.
The answer came in the 68th minute when Indian Land was whistled for a hand ball just outside the 18-yard box.
BHS senior Blaine Gossman, on a direct kick, placed a perfect shot over the Warriors wall, that tucked into the left corner of the goal, to tie the match at 1-1.
Buford seemed to be re-energized after the tie, and continued to put pressure on the IL defense.
The Warriors kept hustling as well, and got a great opportunity when they got a one-on-one with Jacket keeper Ethan Funderburk.
Funderburk, who had nine saves, came off his line, stretched out, and deflected the shot.
In the 75th minute, Gossman received a pass, and drove into the right side of the Warrior back line, and the cross attempt was deflected off a defender for a corner kick.
The ball bounced around in front of the goal, but was ultimately cleared, where Gossman again tried to deliver a cross, but was again deflected for another corner kick.
This time, BHS senior forward Nate Purser, who had just missed on several similar opportunities earlier, was up to the task, and blasted the ball into the net for the game-winning goal.
“I can’t say enough about the grit and hustle of our team tonight,” BHS coach John Bundy said. “Indian Land isn’t in our region after their move to AAA, but these kids have faced each other so many times, and several of my players have joined me over the years in going to watch them in state championship games. Their success is unmatched around here, and few programs in the state can say they’ve been as successful.
“We have so much respect for them, coach Adam Cole, and his staff.”
Bundy saluted his team.
“I’m blessed with many more than usual seniors, who have been through many big matches, and gained experience for matches like this. My underclassmen also have stepped up and tried to elevate their play, thanks to the leadership of these seniors.
“Just last year, at Indian Land, we gave up an early goal, yet kept battling, but couldn’t score, so we came up just short. It’s going through games like that where you learn about yourself and your team, and my guys just simply decided they wouldn’t be denied this time.”
Bundy said execution was vital. “When you face a team of Indian Land’s skill and experience, you’re not going to get many open looks, so you have to be creative in how you approach them, and try to get goals, all the while, trying to stop them from getting theirs.
“My guys did pretty much everything I asked of them, and now know they can hang with any team, as long as we show up and give our best effort. In soccer, it’s not always pretty, but you play through the mistakes, forget about them, and move on to the next opportunity.
“We’d had four straight shutouts leading to this match, so I felt if we could scratch for a goal or two, we’d have a chance. I can’t say enough about the play of the back line again, of sophomore Dylan Ghent, and seniors Zayn Sutton, William Ingram, and Zach Justice. Holding mid Jim Small has really been effective covering for any of them when they carry the ball forward, and stepping into spots we need a Buford jersey in, as the flow of the games change.
“Junior Jesse Black provided much needed energy in the midfield, as did senior Bryton Davis. Purser, and fellow senior Ben Rhoton played fast and physical up top, and caused the Warrior defense to really be on point the entire match.
“This was a huge result for our program, and we’re very happy with the win, but there’s a lot of soccer left, and goals to meet, so we enjoy it, but understand the importance of each game, regardless of opponent.”
The Jackets, 5-1 in regular season, 1-0 in region, are “road warriors” week, as they travel for three matches.
On Monday, BHS played at Fairfield Central.
On Wednesday, Buford visits Lewisville for a pair of matches, with the jayvees at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity at 7.
The BHS varsity wraps up the week with a bus ride to Coker College in Hartsville to play The Governor’s School for Science and Math at 6 p.m.