GILBERT — For 12 glorious minutes, Nick Retter and his family of Indian Land Warriors looked poised for redemption, on cruise control to win the 2A boys soccer title after coming up one game short last year.
Retter and fellow midfielder Garrett Gerdes had both come out of the traps on fire to score against a visibly stunned Bishop England squad for the 2-0 lead. Then, just as it had when they were humbled 5-0 in the 2012 final against Academic Magnet, the bottom fell out. The Battling Bishops Joel Bunting scored the first and last goal of the game for the Lower State champions, his most important coming just 19 seconds before the end of sudden death, condemning Indian Land to back-to-back state title heartbreak.
Thats just how it goes, Retter said, squinting back tears. We put so much effort into this and it was the best game we had played so far this year.
There are now two classes of starters who have played in 2A state finals and come up short. Head coach Adam Cole is now looking to his freshmen and sophomores to keep up the winning tradition at Indian Land High School and go one better than their peers.
Were putting it on them to take the reins and get us back to this level, Cole said. This was so much more different than last year because we came in with experience playing on this field and we came out ready.
It all looked so positive for Indian Land and the Warriors faithful supporters, who had travelled the two hours to make it to Leonard Price Field just outside Columbia. Retter couldnt miss his volley from a Brandon Jacob cross after just six minutes of play. Retter would then turn provider as his inch-perfect corner reached the diving head of Garrett Gerdes for a two-goal advantage.
Things would turn ugly just a minute later when Indian Land goalkeeper Jake Barton flapped at a low cross, allowing Bunting to capitalize at the edge of the box. Senior captain Mateo Gomez would personally complete a wild comeback with two goals in 90 seconds with just 24 minutes on the clock.
Our whole game plan was to come out quick to slow them down, but when we went down, it hurt us, Cole said.
Warrior Anthony Cutrone was lucky to have his 25th minute free kick deflected off the Bishop England wall and past the Bishops goalkeeper Ross Rogers to keep title hopes alive and knot the game at 3-3.
His attempt was the last honest shot in anger for Indian Land throughout regulation.
The Warriors were consistently penned back for the second half, which led to little goalmouth action for either side. Two overtime periods came and went before the teams could be divided.
With seconds remaining before the prospect of penalty kicks deciding the 2A champion, the waters parted for Bunting. His juking and twisting run in the Indian Land box burst through two Warrior defenders, where he poked home a shot from just nine yards out.
Retter, Cutrone, Gerdes and almost every other Warrior on the field dropped to their knees. The emotions and tears flowed as the team, which looked destined for redemption, came up short once again.
We were gassed, Cole said. They caught us off guard and it was a killer.
While the rest of his team quietly put away their gear, unlaced their boots and began mentally preparing for next seasons campaign, Retter waxed lyrical about the teammates hes played with for years.
Were proud to be on this team, Retter said. Were all Indian Land family. Its always tough to lose like this. Its a small town and our brotherhood shows.
Indian Land 2, Bishop England 3 (sudden death)
6 min GOAL for Indian Land Nick Retter
12 min GOAL for Indian Land Garrett Gerdes
13 min GOAL for Bishop England Joel Bunting
23 min GOAL for Bishop England Mateo Gomez
24 min GOAL for Bishop England Mateo Gomez
25 min GOAL for Indian Land Anthony Cutrone
109 min GOAL for Bishop England Joel Bunting