A phenomenal season for the McIntosh boys soccer team came a heartbreaking end against Johnson-Gainesville Knights in the Class AAAAA state championship on Friday night.
The Chiefs played valiantly and battled the Knights all night. However, it was the Knights that took home the state title with a 1-0 win.
“I am proud of these boys and it was one of those nights the break didn’t go our way,” McIntosh head coach Bunky Colvin said. “These boys have nothing to be ashamed of as they fought like champions.”
In the first 15 minutes of action, both teams were testing each other. Each squad had free runs to the goal and tried to establish dominance on set pieces. The Chiefs seemed to recover well against a powerful Knights offense. They chased down crosses and blocked potential shots on the goal.
The Knights were aggressive and played a high-attack front line in the early going. The strategy was used to get a couple quick goals against a tactical Chiefs defensive alignment.
However, it was the offense that struggled to generate any goal scoring chances. McIntosh couldn’t figure out how to score on Johnson-Gainesville’s talented goalie, Cooper Bowen.
Bowen swatted nearly every shot that came his way. In the 39th minute, Kyle Cox had a nice cross into the goalie box, but Bowen collected the attempt. A minute later, Bowen affected a shot from Jake Donaldson that went off the crossbar.
Both teams battled to a stalemate in the first half and went into halftime with no goals scored on either side.
After halftime, the Knights started to find some advantages in the Chiefs defensive alignment. They worked the middle of the field and set up free runs with solid passing. In the 67th minute, the Knights finally connected on a goal as Michael Arcia found the back of the net.
Arcia took a corner kick and smashed it right at the net. It bounced off a McIntosh defender and ricocheted back to him. He took the rebounding shot and scored past Chiefs goalie Jonathan Barrett.
The goal gave Johnson a 1-0 advantage as the sought their first soccer championship in school history. However, McIntosh wouldn’t go away quietly. They battled for the final 13 minutes of action and made things tough on Johnson.
Yet, they still couldn’t find the back of the net. Bowen made some unbelievable saves to preserve the 1-0 lead. Late in the match, he snared two close proximity shots from the Chiefs. He swiftly blocked the first shot and flashed his quick reactions to corral the rebounding attempt.
His ability to protect the goal paid dividends as Johnson held on to win 1-0 as the clock hit triple zeroes. Johnson collected their first state title and sent McIntosh home as the state runner-ups.
“It was a very even game and we played our hearts out,” Colvin said. “They got the break on a deflected ball that went in the goal.” We had a couple chances to put one in and it is just one of those days where two really good teams were even and they got the break.”
McIntosh finished their season exceeding expectations against some of the toughest soccer programs in the state. They battled against strong powerhouses and made it back to the state title game for the second straight time. Colvin was proud of the resolve of his team to always battle through adversity.
“When we lost the Starr’s Mill game, everyone wrote this team off,” Colvin said. “They said this team had no chance and they put together seven wins in a row against some incredible teams…”This year, we were supposed to good, but all those teams were supposed to be the team. We still found a way to get back here.”
Despite the loss, Colvin said he expects his team to be back next season. He will have to make some adjustments and replace some seniors, but he is confident in his squad.
“We will be back again,” Colvin said.
To see more photos from the game, click here.