Lexington’s Will Gettys and Brookland-Cayce’s Matt Drapeau had a simple message to each other when their teams met early in the season at the S.C. Classic soccer tournament.
After Getty’s Lexington squad defeated Brookland-Cayce 3-2 on March 27, the two coaches chatted and wished each other well for the rest of the season.
“Coach Gettys and I talked and I said, you guys go win 5A (state championship) and we will go win 3A,” Drapeau recalled this week.
The two coaches reminded each other of that conversation this week after both teams clinched spots in this weekend’s South Carolina High School League soccer championships at Irmo High School. Lexington takes on Riverside in the Class 5A title game Friday, while B-C faces Daniel in the Class 3A finals Saturday.
Both Midlands teams are looking for their first state championships in boys soccer. Lexington’s only other title appearance came in 2013 when it lost to Irmo, 4-3, in penalty kicks in Phil Savitz’s last game as Irmo coach.
Lexington’s run started with some drama
The Wildcats, who were ranked in the top 10 of Class 5A throughout the year, didn’t clinch a spot in the playoffs until the final day of the regular season. Only two teams in each region made the postseason because of COVID-19, and the Wildcats needed help to make it.
Lexington needed Chapin to beat River Bluff since it held the tiebreaker over the Gators. The Wildcats were playing Richland Northeast on the night of the Chapin-River Bluff match, but most of their attention was on the other match. Chapin defeated River Bluff, 2-1, in overtime.
“It was kind of surreal that night,” Lexington coach Will Gettys said. “Our guys and coaches were watching Chapin-River Bluff and were paying attention to that more than the match we were playing. So it was a little uneasy that night. We were just hoping to get in.”
Lexington has won two of its three postseason matches on the road, including a 3-1 win in overtime over Chapin on Tuesday. The Eagles beat the Wildcats both times in the regular season, but Gettys didn’t think his team played to its potential in those previous matches.
“We took advantage once we got in the playoffs and played three great games — and we have to play one more,” Gettys said.
Jaxon Keene and Franklin Spires are Lexington’s top goal scorers. Keene became the first player in school history to record more than 20 goals and 20 assists in one season.
B-C takes down top teams in 3A
Brookland-Cayce didn’t have that kind of suspense at the end of its season. The Bearcats won the Region 5-3A title but faced a tough playoff road with a second-round match against No. 2 Oceanside Collegiate and the lower state championship at top-ranked Bishop England.
But the Bearcats won both matches in the final minutes, including Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win over Bishop England.
“I like to not have to play such close matches, but I’d rather be on one side than the other,” Drapeau said. “When we get in those tough moments, they just have this will and keep going for the guy next to them. They have a belief in what we are doing, believe in each other and that we can accomplish anything.”
This will be the Bearcats’ first championship appearance since 2014 when Kevin Heise was coach. Heise led B-C to three title matches in his 27 years as a coach before going to Gray Collegiate in 2017 after a public falling out with the school.
Heise remains a popular figure at B-C and around the state, and some players followed him to Gray. Drapeau, a former assistant at Newberry, had his work cut out for him in trying to rebuild the program.
The process was sped up with the additions of cousins Eduardo Moira Membreño and Cesar Bermudez Membreño, who moved to West Columbia from El Salvador before the 2018 season. Eduardo leads the team with 49 goals this year and has 81 career goals in just 37 games. He had both of the team’s goals against Bishop England.
Cesar has 30 goals and leads the team with 30 assists this season.
The two are part of a heavy Spanish-speaking presence for the program. Drapeau said he has players from Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala and estimates that more than half of 65 players in the program speak another language or are from another country.
“Soccer is a worldwide sport. Even if we can’t speak to each other directly, we got guys who are bilingual and who can translate,” Drapeau said. “We are one big family. I think our first language of the team is Spanish, and I had to pick up a few words. But it has been fun watching these guys grow and come together.”
SCHSL Championship Schedule
All games at Irmo High School
Class A Girls: St. Joseph’s vs. Southside Christian, 4 p.m.
Class 2A Boys: Christ Church vs. Andrew Jackson, 7:30 p.m.
Class A Boys: Southside Christian vs. Palmetto Scholars, 1 p.m.
Class 5A Girls: JL Mann vs. Wando, 4 p.m.
Class 5A Boys: Lexington vs. Riverside, 7:30 p.m.
Class 3A Girls: Daniel vs. Oceanside Collegiate, 10 a.m.
Class 3A Boys: Brookland-Cayce vs. Daniel, 1 p.m.
Class 4A Girls: James Island vs. Catawba Ridge, 4 p.m.
Class 4A Boys: James Island vs. Eastside, 7:30 p.m.