Springwood Wildcats boys soccer claim state title after defying 2-goal deficit
Published 11:08 pm Friday, April 21, 2023
What. a. Turnaround.
After trailing by two goals at halftime, the Springwood boys soccer team pulled off a miraculous comeback in the second half to claim the first state championship in program history with a 3-2 win over Southern Prep.
“Since we started the program six years ago, we have been trying to get to this point,” Springwood coach John Lanier said. “It has been a lot of hard work to get to this moment.”
The Wildcats had to weather the storm in the first half, when they were constantly under siege from set pieces. Springwood was just able to stay in it despite playing the first 30 minutes in its own half. The Wildcats started to get a foothold in the game in the final 10 minutes in what Lanier called “crucial” for the team.
“After trailing 2-0, we kept fighting and never put our heads down,” Lanier said. “These guys have no quit, and they wanted this game more than anything. I knew that no matter the score these guys were never going to quit out there on that field.”
Springwood was able to ride that late first half momentum and the message at halftime never wavered. The team stayed the course and was duly rewarded when Dixon Fuller rose above the Ranger defense for a towering header from a free kick less than three minutes into the second half to cut the Ranger lead in half. Ten minutes later, the Wildcats had the equalizer as Angel Mesa ran toward the back post on a corner kick and slammed the ball into the net with his head from close range to level the match and send the Springwood supporters into pandemonium.
With the game tied at 2-2, it had an eerily similar feeling to the Wildcats state championship game from last year when they fell on the very same field 3-2 in heartbreaking fashion. But there was no sign of pessimism as the Wildcats pressed the advantage, and finally found the go-ahead goal late, which led to elation for all those in red and black that made the trip to Montgomery.
If the Wildcat fans were causing a ruckus after the second goal went in, when the third goal went in on an own goal at the near post from a corner kick, it would be best described as bedlam as Springwood chants ran throughout the stadium.
“When it went in, I was hoping the clock would start to run faster,” Lanier said with a laugh. “That clock started to feel like it was moving really slow.”
Setpieces would define the evening with all three goals from the Wildcats coming off corner kicks or free kicks.
“We have been working on set pieces all week, and it was just fantastic execution by the guys tonight,” Lanier said.
The third goal came with 14 minutes on the clock and the Wildcats battened down the hatches and prevented the Rangers from carving out any real clear cut opportunities as the time dwindled down.
It has been over five years since Springwood was able to win a state championship in any sport, and Lanier knows how much this will mean for not just the program but the entire school.
“This is fantastic and huge for our school,” Lanier said. “We have only won one championship since the early 2000s, and it was girls basketball a few years ago, so this is very big for our school.”