High School Sports

AC Flora trips up Hilton Head High boys

Wayne Quinlan asked his senior class to stand up as he spoke to them after the game. Most had tears in their eyes as they stumbled to their feet -- the emotions of a hard-fought loss, of a goal cut short two games too early and of a career ended.

Quinlan praised them for their four years with the Hilton Head High soccer program. He credited them for taking it to the next level.

But that group -- defined by its state championship hopes -- was left with the tough-to-swallow realization Saturday that it wasn't quite enough.

A.C. Flora bounced the Seahawks from the Class 3-A playoffs Saturday with a 2-1 road victory in the Lower State semifinals. The Falcons will play Myrtle Beach in the Lower State championship match Tuesday.

Hilton Head High finished the season 16-6-1.

"They put everything they had into it," Quinlan said of his team. "That says a lot about these kids. But sometimes you do that, and it still doesn't come out your way. That's the hard part."

It wasn't for a lack of effort.

Faced with a two-goal deficit for the final 23 minutes, Bennett Murphy headed in a pass from Chris MacMurray to cut A.C. Flora's lead to 2-1 in the 75th minute and keep his team's hopes alive. The Seahawks scrapped for potential game-tying chances over the final five minutes and extra time -- and got an opportunity in the box that hit the side of the net -- but their energy ultimately came up empty.

Hilton Head High also earned itself a penalty kick in the 68th minute -- with the score still 2-0 -- but A.C. Flora goalie Adam Frantz stoned Tyler Betts' attempt, and Betts' rebound try ricocheted off the crossbar.

"For about the last 30 minutes of that game, we were running around, doing everything we could to tie this up," Quinlan said. "But when you get that deep into the playoffs, you have to play 80 minutes like that."

The Seahawks and Falcons fought to a scoreless tie at halftime in a game that opened as a defensive battle. Each team managed only one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes.

A.C. Flora altered its strategy for the second half, and in turn flipped the game in its favor. Andrew McClam lofted a long pass to Cam Wegrzyn from beyond midfield, which Wegrzyn skipped off his head and past goalie Conner Goulet for a 1-0 lead.

Robbie Cook tapped in a goal 11 minutes later, giving the Falcons a comfortable 2-0 lead.

"When the adversity came in a close game, that's when we showed how good of a team we are," Cook said. "We knew if we played the way we needed to play, we could beat anybody. We pulled through with one."