As a scoreless state championship game between the McIntosh Chiefs and the Buford Wolves reached the 70-minute mark, the side of the pitch where the Chiefs offense stood felt eerily silent. Nearly all game, senior Taylor Malasek outran, outdribbled, and outshot everyone else, but like the other 21 players, she had no goals to show for it.
As the clock hit 10 minutes, McIntosh’s offensive spark instantly ignited. Junior goalkeeper Emily Lopez punted a long ball that cycled through a couple players, including sophomore Tariah Miller, and eventually reached Malasek on the other end. She spun away from her defender with ease and drilled the first goal of the game with just under 10 minutes to play.
It wasn’t Malasek’s only goal. A 25-yard strike in the upper right corner that skimmed past Buford freshman goalkeeper Maggie Leland’s fingertips late in the game sealed a 2-0 McIntosh win.
From the second goal at 3:49 until the end of the game, flags waved and a raucous McIntosh student section roared. As the buzzer sounded, players sprinted from the sidelines and swarmed Malasek on the pitch. In back-to-back seasons and for the third time in four years, the Chiefs had earned a state title.
As the game kicked off, the ball reversed sides quickly. At one moment early in the game, Buford (17-3-2) earned a corner kick. A minute and a half later, McIntosh (15-8-2) was setting up for a corner kick attempt.
Lopez halted Buford’s attack, stepping up to collect a couple long lobs and catching a shot attempt that hit her right in front of the goal nearly five minutes into the game.
During the latter part of the first half, McIntosh started creating more scoring opportunities on offense.
At the 11:30 mark, junior Hannah Ellison fired a shot from long range, but Leland was able to reach high enough to punch the ball over the top of the net.
Malasek made her first of a handful of shot attempts with 9:53 remaining in the first half, but her hook shot soared wide left.
After a scoreless first 40 minutes, the Chiefs offense started simmering in the second half. Less than 30 seconds after the intermission ended, McIntosh was setting up for a corner kick.
The Buford student section filled out in section 105, equaling the numbers of the McIntosh student section two rows over. Buford’s fans tried to quiet McIntosh, but Malasek simply wouldn’t let them.
“It was the last game. I knew we had to win it, and I just gave it all I got,” Malasek said.
Two of Malasek’s shots, a close range strike and a carefully placed penalty kick, both bounced off the left post.
Meanwhile, McIntosh junior Kimmy Edgeworth swiped a would-be score moments before it reached the Chiefs goal.
“The more you shoot, the more you wear down that defense, and the more likely you are to catch them out of position,” said McIntosh head coach Marcia Clark.
In the 71st minute of the game, Malasek broke through. McIntosh players jumped and screamed before settling in for the final 10 minutes of the game. They sensed that goal might be the difference, and it was, but that doesn’t mean Malasek was done.
“The first one was the icebreaker,” Malasek said.
A second goal six minutes later and a strong defensive effort ended the game. Malasek, who will play soccer at University of North Georgia next season, and the other seniors celebrated their third high school state championship.
Before the game came to a close, the McIntosh student section chanted “I believe that we just won.” It was the 11th time the girls had accomplished that feat, and the 16th soccer state title for the school.
Only a few hours after the conclusion of the girls game, the school had earned its 17th state soccer championship.