GILBERT — For 12 minutes, Nick Retter and his “family” of Indian Land Warriors looked poised for redemption, on cruise control to win the 2A boys’ soccer state title after coming up one game short last year.
Retter and fellow midfielder Garrett Gerdes had scored against a visibly stunned Bishop England squad for the 2-0 lead.
Then, just as it had when they were defeated 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, handing Indian Land back-to-back state title heartbreak.
“That’s 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 said he 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.
“We’re 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 their faithful supporters, who had travelled the two hours to make it to Leonard Price Field just outside Columbia.
Retter couldn’t miss his volley from a Brandon Jacob cross after just six minutes of play. Retter would then turn provider as his inch-perfect corner kick reached the diving head of Garrett Gerdes for a two-goal advantage.
Things turned just a minute later when Indian Land goalkeeper Jake Barton flapped at a low cross kick, allowing Bunting to score at the edge of the box. Senior captain Mateo Gomez completed 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.
Indian Land’s Anthony Cutrone had his 25th-minute free kick deflected off the Bishop England wall and past the Bishop’s goalkeeper Ross Rogers to keep title hopes alive, tying the game at 3-3.
His attempt was the last honest shot for Indian Land throughout regulation. The Warriors were consistently pinned back for the second half, which led to little action around the goals for either side. Two overtime periods came and went before the winner emerged.
With seconds remaining before the prospect of penalty kicks deciding the 2A champion, Bunting made a twisting run through through two Warrior defenders, scoring from just nine yards out.
“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 shoes and began mentally preparing for next season’s campaign, Retter said, “We’re proud to be on this team,” Retter said. “We’re all Indian Land family. It’s always tough to lose like this. It’s a small town and our brotherhood shows.”
6 minutes: Nick Retter (Indian Land) goal
12 minutes: Garrett Gerdes (Indian Land) goal
13 minutes: Joel Bunting (Bishop England) goal
23 minutes: Mateo Gomez (Bishop England) goal
24 minutes: Mateo Gomez (Bishop England) goal
25 minutes: Anthony Cutrone (Indian Land) goal
109 minutes: Joel Bunting (Bishop England) goal