INDIAN LAND — Nick Retter jabbed his fists in the air. Bryan Reynolds ran around midfield, hugging anyone he could see. Anthony Cutrone flung his water bottle into the heavens.
Eventually, after the realization hit home that the Indian Land Warriors had clinched a spot in the 2A state title match, the team met in the center circle of The Reservation and let the celebration wash over them.
A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ninety-Six High School (20-4) Tuesday night had put them there, but after the final whistle, head coach Adam Cole was quick to warn his jubilant squad that the most fulfilling victory is now on the line on Saturday afternoon against Bishop England High School.
Its redemption time, Cole said, still dripping from the Gatorade his players had doused him with post-game. We have a big chance to redeem ourselves from last year and win it all.
This time last year, Cole and his Warrior squad (19-4) were readying themselves to take on Academic Magnet School in the final, but came out cold and lost 5-0 in Columbia. This time around, Indian Land has more experience and a large chip on its shoulder.
This year, the expectation was to win Upper State and we felt we had to come here and do just that, said Nick Retter, who scored Indian Lands second goal of the night.
Its going to be different now, because we wont be so nervous. Well play with energy, but well be focused this time.
Tuesdays outcome was never in doubt. Cutrone converted a penalty after his shot in the 20th minute was adjudged to have been handled in the box to give the Warriors a quick advantage. Retter doubled the lead just seven minutes later, slamming home from eight yards out from an Eric Sandor cross on the right wing.
We knew it was real important to get an early goal, Cole said. Weve watched a lot of film on these guys [Ninety-Six] and knew that would be the key.
Garrett Gerdes got on the score sheet himself just three minutes after the restart, heading home from a dangerous 50/50 ball in the box with Wildcat keeper Blaize McGinnis.
The focus now turns back to Gilbert High School in Columbia at 1:30 p.m., where Indian Land faces their Lower State foes Bishop England for 2A boys soccer glory. Even as the celebrations burn bright tonight, Cole wants his squad focused on avenging how last season ended.
Its all about redemption time right here, he said. This crowd was so motivated to make us put on our A game. Were ready to take it to [Bishop England] on Saturday.