GILBERT -- For almost a month now, Hilton Head Island High School midfielder Chris MacMurray has been trying to get back his fortitude on penalty kicks.
"The past couple weeks at practice, (goalkeeper) Conner Goulet shut me down," the senior said. "Every PK I took, he blocked it. I lost my confidence."
But a conversation with coach Wayne Quinlan on Friday changed things for the Seahawks' captain. Saturday's Class 3-A state championship against Eastside presented a new opportunity for the Georgia Southern signee, Quinlan reminded him, with a fresh goalkeeper unaware of MacMurray's tendencies.
The speech proved prophetic less than 24 hours later, as MacMurray delivered Hilton Head High's first state championship in the 30-year history of the program on a penalty kick in the 76th minute against the top-ranked Eagles.
"I have full faith in Chris," Goulet said. "His abilities are tremendous. Any time it comes down to a pressure situation, he's the coolest on our team. I wouldn't want anybody else taking it."
After time expired at Gilbert High School, MacMurray picked up the school's elusive state championship trophy, held it high and delivered a kiss to the top of the silver keepsake. He helped the Seahawks earn it minutes earlier after sliding one into the right corner of the net past a diving Santiago Restrepo, which sent his teammates into a frenzy as they jumped around him.
"That kid has been a workhorse for this school for four years," Quinlan said. "Here I am, his coach, trying to squeeze that last ounce of blood out of him."
For more than 70 minutes, the final was a nip-and-tuck affair, but the match took a turn on an errant penalty by Eastside's Mitchell Lawson. The senior was called for a handball in the waning minutes of regulation, setting the stage for MacMurray's heroics.
"The ball obviously didn't bounce the way we anticipated," Eastside coach Nomar Rodriguez said. "One of my players was in the wrong spot at the wrong time and the ball hit his hand. I thought we played a fantastic second half. We were on their side most of it but didn't score. They got the goal and that's it."
That was enough to end a 19-game winning streak for Eastside (21-2-1), which lost for the first time since March 16. The Eagles were unable to break through against a steadfast Goulet -- who finished with eight saves -- and watched as a beautiful shot bounced off the crossbar as time wound down.
"It's unfortunate," Quinlan said. "My heart goes out to Eastside. They were every bit as good as we were. They had a shot kick off the crossbar and we had a penalty kick. That was the difference in the game."
Those few inches were enough for Hilton Head High (22-4), which redeemed itself after falling short in the state final last season against Fort Mill. The Seahawks' captains walked into the locker room Saturday with clippings of their defeat ready in envelopes, one last chance to bury a defeat that has stuck with players for the last year.
"We gave them two minutes and said, 'Look what it felt like. Remember that,'" MacMurray said. "Then we said, 'Everybody rip them up.' We ripped them up, got it out of our heads. It was a new year, a new game and we got it done."
New clippings will now be saved instead, as the Seahawks ended the season with the school's first boys soccer crown and the first championship in the 30-plus year coaching career for Quinlan, who knelt alone for a prayer as his players celebrated near midfield.
"One of the things we tried to instill in preseason was progression," he said. "We wanted to go from a good team -- which we were before last season -- to a great team, which we were last season, to a unique team. These are the kind of things that make your program unique."
Hilton Head High 1, Eastside 0
Goals -- Hilton Head High -- Chris MacMurray (74th)