By JOHN MUNFORD
The McIntosh boys soccer team wrapped up their perfect championship season by beating a previously-undefeated Houston County team in Carrollton Saturday night to capture the AAAAA state trophy.
It was a close battle early on, Salomon Lorenzano scored the first goal 13 minutes in, as the Houston keeper came toward the front of the box to try and squelch the flurry, but Lorenzano was able to slip it past.
That slim one-goal lead would hold through the rest of the game, despite several near-misses from the Houston squad that tested the nerves of the McIntosh faithful who made the road trip.
Chris Perez gave the Chiefs some last-minute cushion with a ringing shot set up by Nick Alvey that landed with five and a half minutes left for the final 2-0 score. The goal sent a wave of relief through the crowd as the anxiety level dropped considerably for the remainder of the game as McIntosh kept on the pressure to lock up the title, which is the fourth state championship in school history.
When the final horn shouted, some players stripped off their shirts in celebration while many of them leapt into the stands to embrace the fans … who had been admonished minutes earlier not to storm onto the field.
There is one unresolved matter: whether McIntosh will be declared the national champion. The team is currently ranked number one in the nation in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.
Lorenzano also has earned national acclaim, being named one of the national Gatorade players of the year.
As for the title game Saturday night, Colvin told his squad they will go down in history as the best team to have ever played at McIntosh, between their perfect record and only giving up two goals all season long.
“Defense, they say, wins championships, and whoever said that was right,” Colvin said. “That’s been the difference for us. But … when our kids got opportunities, they executed and got the goals we needed to win the game.”
Colvin is in his 13th year as head soccer coach at McIntosh and was an assistant for five years before that, so he’s seen enough soccer to be a pretty good judge of what makes a great team, and what makes a perfect team.
After the big post-game celebration, Colvin told his team they were “the greatest team in McIntosh history.”
“You earned it. You are the best. Nobody was better,” Colvin said.
With a perfect 23-0 record and outscoring their opponents 137-2, McIntosh played a number of top 10 teams including Collins Hill, which made it to the state championship in the AAAAAA classification.
“That’s why I say this is the best team in McIntosh history,” Colvin said.
Though McIntosh is a highly-skilled team when it comes to ball control, the Houston Bears played quite aggressively from the outset and essentially made it a nerve-wracking game from start to finish.
“We played the best team we’ve played all year,” McIntosh Head Coach Bunky Colvin said, noting that Houston had more shots on goal than anyone McIntosh has faced this season. “… They created great chances and proved they were the team to play in the finals.”
McIntosh will graduate 11 seniors from this year’s squad.
“This is a great moment for them,” Colvin said. “Many of them have been to the championship and walked away with a loss, so I think the most proud thing here is those seniors get to walk out as champions and they deserved it.”
On the girls’ side of the bracket, Whitewater fell 4-1 to their cross-county rivals Northgate. This is the third year in a row that Whitewater has ended in the runner’s up spot: the past two years they fell to McIntosh, but this year Northgate stunned McIntosh in the semifinal game, and the Lady Vikings rode that wave of confidence through the final horn of their championship game.