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 Class AA state soccer title game, the team met in the center circle of The Reservation and let the celebration wash over.
A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ninety-Six High School (20-4) on Tuesday night had put them there, but after the final whistle, 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.
“It’s 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 Warriors squad (19-4) were readying themselves to take on Academic Magnet School in the final, but came out cold and would end up losing 5-0 in Columbia. This time around, Indian Land has more experience and a large chip on their 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 Land’s second goal of the night. “It’s going to be different now, because we won’t be so nervous. We’ll play with energy, but we’ll be focused this time.”
Tuesday’s outcome was never in doubt. Anthony Cutrone converted a penalty after his shot in the 20th minute was judged 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. “We’ve 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 Wildcats keeper Blaize McGinnis.
The focus now turns back to Gilbert High School in Gilbert, at 1:30 p.m., where Indian Land faces its 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.
“It’s all about redemption time right here,” he said. “This crowd was so motivated to make us put on our A game. We’re ready to take it to (Bishop England) on Saturday.”