In a clash of local titans, the home team was victorious. The McIntosh Chiefs are heading back to the boys soccer state championship game following Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Whitewater Wildcats.
“It feels great. This team’s been through a lot this year, and I’m just really proud of them,” said McIntosh head coach Bunky Colvin. “We had a stretch where we had a lot of injuries and we were kind of disjointed and this group really came together. When they started really becoming a team, it really turned around.”
McIntosh finally found a crack in a tough Whitewater defense, drawing a foul in the box in the 28th minute. Brandon Fambro stepped up to the task and converted the penalty kick for the 1-0 lead.
Whitewater struggled to solve the stingy Chief defense. Jordan Outhavong got their best look of the half with four minutes remaining, but his shot sailed over the crossbar.
The Chiefs ramped up the intensity after the break, putting the pressure on the Cats and keeper Lance Ibarra, who racked up a number of stellar saves.
Shaking off the missed opportunities, Dylan Boerstler played it through to Mason Harris, who converted for the 2-0 lead in the 57th minute. Just three minutes later they added an insurance goal with Harris firing on goal and Craig McIlwraith punching the rebound in for a 3-0 lead.
Whitewater kept clawing for a rally, but McIntosh keepers Jonathan Bennett and Matias Cuestas turned them away with fabulous saves in the waning minutes.
For the 11th time in 19 seasons, McIntosh will now play for the state championship, and the 2019 edition will feature a familiar foe in Starr’s Mill. The Panthers earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory in their regular season matchup under the leadership of their longtime head coach Mike Hanie, who is retiring at the end of the campaign. While McIntosh holds Hanie and his squad in high regard, the Chiefs have business to attend to after they lost to Johnson (Gainesville) in last year’s title game.
“That (Starr’s Mill) game was even all the way through, even shots, even everything. They got an opportunity and they finished it and we didn’t. Really, it’s going to be a dead even game, and it’s going to come down to who executes and who doesn’t,” said Colvin. “I don’t relish playing the state championship in Mike Hanie’s final game. I love him, but we’re going to try to send him home with a loss.”
For the Wildcats, it was a tough ending to a tremendous season. Relegated to the road for the playoffs after coming out on the short end of the stick in a three-way tie atop the region, they rolled through Wayne County and Veterans before returning home for the quarterfinals where they edged out Rome in PKs. For the season, they finish with a 14-4-4 record.
McIntosh and Starr’s Mill tangle for the boys soccer state championship on Saturday, May 18 at 2:30 p.m. at Mercer University.
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