The Clover High School boys’ soccer team reached the mountain top Monday, nudging Nation Ford 1-0 to nail down the Region 3-AAAA championship.
Fernando Alpizar-Ramos booted the only goal of the game on a timely assist from teammate Bailey Bottini in the 13th minute before an enthusiastic crowd at the newly-turfed soccer field behind Clover Middle School.
Alpizar-Ramos, grinning from ear-to-ear after huddling with jubilant teammates in a postgame celebration, still had the energy to talk about the winning score.
“At first, I didn’t think I was gonna get to it,” said Alpizar-Ramos. “I thought the kicker was gonna come out a little bit and he took a step back. I was able to move in for the score.”
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“You have to be quick every second of the game,” he said. “If you get the opportunity, you have to put it away.”
Which Alpizar-Ramos did, to the delight of the Blue Eagles crowd.
The defensive-minded Blue Eagles, ranked No. 8 in the state 4A poll, held off the No.5-ranked Falcons’ effort to clinch a No. 1 seed in next week’s playoffs.
While excited about the team’s title-clinching game, Clover head coach Graham Stafford also praised Nation Ford’s effort.
“They are a great program,” Stafford said. “Jon Jarrett has done a great job with that program.”
Stafford said he has been pleased with how the Blue Eagles have settled into their new home venue.
“It was a great atmosphere tonight,” he said. “This place is a little bit more intimate.
“We got the crowd out tonight. We did a good job of spreading the word through social media. We’re really happy to get that support from the community.”
With the high school soccer playoffs looming, Stafford said the Blue Eagles are peaking at the right time.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “One game at a time.
“If we can play tight defense like we’ve been doing all year and take our chances when we get them, we’re gonna be a hard team to beat.”
With a No. 1 seed tucked away, Stafford said, the Blue Eagles will host an opening-round playoff game May 7.
The time and the Blue Eagle’s opponent will be announced later this week.