McIntosh has another state soccer championship sweep in its sights after a dominating run through the Final Four Tuesday night, as the boys grounded Grady 4-1 and the girls defeated Flowery Branch 5-2.
The boys lit up the Knights early and finished them off in the second half of a convincing win.
With the level of competition getting better each round, the Chiefs have found a way to elevate their play with each match, no matter the challenge.
“I think the most impressive thing with a young group like this is the last three matches we’ve had to play three different ways to win,” said Coach Bunky Colvin. “Each of those scenarios, the kids bought in and did exactly what we asked them to do and played with everything they had. You can’t ask for more than that.”
They found the tactic that worked best against the Knights quickly, unleashing an offensive onslaught in the opening minutes. In the third minute, Dylan Keysar lofted a long crossing pass to Jacob Donaldson, but he missed just inches wide. In the fifth minute, the combo teamed up successfully. Off a Takuma Suzuki corner kick, Keysar corralled the ball in the box and chipped it back out to Donaldson for a long liner past the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
In the 16th minute, Suzuki started another successful set piece off a corner kick. Keysar got a bit fancier this time, attempting a bicycle kick that was short. Logan Brown was perfectly placed, redirecting it into the net for a two-goal advantage.
Midway through the second half, the Chiefs added to their lead. A Grady defender took Suzuki down from behind in the box, earning a penalty kick. Suzuki was perfect, popping the ball over the keeper for a 3-0 margin.
Less than 30 seconds after Suzuki’s goal, Grady answered with their first goal, but the momentary lapse was corrected by the tight defense.
The Chiefs pounced on a golden opportunity when Grady’s captain got his second yellow card and had to leave the game. They finished off the Knights with under 10 minutes to play when Baba Agbaje got loose behind the defense and unleashed a laser that the keeper deflected, but Donaldson was trailing the play perfectly and buried it in the back of the net.
If not for an excellent effort by Grady’s keeper, Jack Hudson, the score would’ve been even more lopsided.
“Noah Slepicka is the best goalkeeper in the state. Their goalkeeper, in my opinion, is probably number two,” said Colvin. “Our shot quality tonight was excellent. Nobody could’ve kept the ball out of the net with some of the shots we took.”
The victory brought celebration, but it was muted. They have a much larger party in mind. The Chiefs want to bring the state championship trophy back home.
“It’s great. We set that as an expectation for our team. It’s a tough expectation. It’s never easy, but these boys, since we walked off the field last year at Riverwood, have had hunger inside them,” said Colvin. “They’ve worked when we’ve asked them to work. They’ve done the little bitty things that most teams aren’t willing to do.”
The dedication extends to every player on the team. The backups know that they make the team better by battling the starters every day. Iron sharpens iron and the coach was quick to credit their role into helping turn the team into a fearsome weapon.
“As the year went on, our non-starters got better and better to the point where sometimes practices and scrimmages were so competitive you can’t come out here and not play competitively,” said Colvin. “Top to bottom, every player on this team has contributed to us getting back to the championship game.”
Those non-starters were rewarded with plenty of action down the stretch as the Chiefs had the match well in hand.
They cruised into the finish to secure a spot in the title game where they will face Clarkston Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mercer University in Macon.
The Lady Chiefs started out fast and never let off the gas in a 5-2 road win over the Flowery Branch Falcons.
The first half was all McIntosh as they put the game out of reach with a 4-0 lead at the break. They added one more for good measure before the Falcons scored twice in the final 12 minutes. Taylor Malasek paced the offense with a hat trick.
The victory sets up a showdown for the state title with Buford Friday at 5 p.m. on the campus of Mercer. This marks the fifth time in seven seasons that the Lady Chiefs will play for the crown.
Whitewater’s undefeated season came to an end Tuesday night with a 5-0 loss to the Buford Wolves in the state girls soccer semifinals.
Buford struck first with a goal in the first five minutes and added a second goal before the half. The Wolves were even more aggressive in the second half, piling on three more goals to put the game out of reach.
Whitewater was never able to get on the board as Buford’s freshman keeper Maggie Leland posted five saves.
The Lady Wildcats finish the season with a 19-1-1 record.
With the win, Buford advances to the state championship match for the first time where they will face McIntosh.