High School Sports

Beaufort High boys roll on to Lower State final

Christian Faale and Andrew Settlemire had missed out on the main course, the go-ahead goal that seemed destined for one of them when they found themselves on a breakaway in the 67th minute.

That moment of glory went instead to Beaufort High School teammate Ethan Konoza, who converted a penalty kick to give the Eagles their first lead of the night.

But somebody had to serve dessert, and the icing came in the form of Faale's header off a long throw-in from Settlemire, finishing off the Eagles' 3-1 victory against Lexington on Saturday and sending Beaufort High's boys soccer team to the Lower State finals for the first time in school history.

"I was just making sure that ball was not going past me," Faale said. "It was going in the back of the net."

That's precisely where it wound up -- and somewhere the Eagles couldn't find for nearly 50 minutes.

After a scoreless first half, Rustin McAlister beat Beaufort High keeper Nick Manos for the game's first goal seven minutes into the second half, but the Eagles wasted no time answering, as Settlemire put his head to a long free kick from Kyle Clark and drove it over goalie Jacob Parton's head for the equalizer less than three minutes later.

The Eagles (19-3-2) had a chance to take the lead when Faale made a move to earn a breakaway and sent a pass across the field to Settlemire, but Lexington defender Gray Griffin flashed in front of the goal to help Parton fend off Settlemire's shot.

The center referee, though, said someone other than Parton got a hand on the ball and awarded Beaufort High a penalty kick, which Konoza converted for the lead.

"All you have to do is just hit the ball clean, keep it on frame and make the keeper make a save," Konoza said. "He went the wrong way, and it went in."

Lexington's coaches argued that it was Parton whose hand hit the ball, but the damage was done, and the second-ranked Wildcats (20-7-1) never recovered. They didn't manage many more scoring chances -- and Manos thwarted any they had -- and Faale's header off Settlemire's throw brought an abrupt end to their impressive season.

"Good season, a lot of accomplishments," Lexington coach Will Gettys said. "Disappointing way to end it."

It's a feeling the Eagles know too well. They made it to the doorstep of the Lower State finals only to lose in the third round three of the past four years.

"They're a great team; it's unlucky for them," Konoza said. "But, hey, we're going through, and that's all that matters to me. But I understand their heartache. They're a good squad."

Now, another strong opponent awaits the fifth-ranked Eagles, who will travel to No. 3 Wando for the Lower State final Tuesday night. The teams split during the season, with the Eagles winning 3-2 at a preseason tournament in Charleston and Wando winning 5-2 at Beaufort High on March 18.

But Eagles coach Gabriel Nieves said he believes in his team -- something that gets easier with each passing game.

"I think we have two more games," Nieves said, "And we are ready."