High School Sports

Pressure finally pays off in OT for Hilton Head High boys soccer team

Chris MacMurray could get used to this whole "delivering in the clutch" thing.

The junior once again came through for the Hilton Head Island High boys soccer team Tuesday night, as his goal in the 95th minute lifted the Seahawks to a thrilling 2-1 win over St. James in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs. It was MacMurray's third game-winning goal of the season.

With the victory, Hilton Head High -- which has won 14 consecutive games -- earned the right to host A.C. Flora on Thursday evening. The Falcons knocked off the Seahawks in the third round a season ago.

"We're just happy to get the win," MacMurray said. "It really doesn't matter how you get a win in the playoffs. We just wanted to advance and keep going into the next round."

MacMurray netted the decisive blow after midfielder Blake Bishop delivered a near-perfect pass inside the box to the junior, who was able to bank it into the right side of the net away from Sharks goal keeper Andrew Minter. It capped off what had been a frustrating night offensively, as the Seahawks got off 19 shots before finally notching the winning goal.

"We were frustrated, but we knew as long as we created chances that we were going to get one eventually," MacMurray said.

Much of that could be credited to Minter, as the senior finished with 11 saves for the Sharks -- which included a handful of leaping deflections to stave off Seahawk rallies.

"We had some chances in the beginning to pull away," Bishop said. "For whatever reason we didn't finish those. It took awhile in the end to crack one through, but we had confidence that we were going to score."

If ever there was any doubt about the Seahawks' chances, it was answered by their defense. St. James (7-11) got off only two shots against Hilton Head High (14-3), both of which came from freshman forward Quadarius Grate.

The only slip-up the Seahawks endured came at the hands of Grate, who lifted a shot on a rebound over the head of keeper Mike Ritterbeck seconds before the half ended to pull into a 1-1 tie. Hilton Head High had broken out on top in the 16th minute on a goal by Francisco Gomez, who beat Christopher Rice around the right side before scooting the ball past a diving Minter for the score.

"The only thing that just kept me from completely blowing a gasket was during the run of play, we were defending really well," Seahawks coach Wayne Quinlan said. " ... I didn't feel like they had much of a chance to get a goal during the run of play."

Quinlan's nerves were certainly running high as time wound down. Most of that probably had to do with his doubts heading into the postseason opener.

"I was dying the whole time out here," he said. "I had a bad feeling about this game all day today. I went home and told my wife before the game, 'I'm really nervous about this one.' "

He could rest easy after all was said and done. He can thank MacMurray's overtime score for that.

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say Chris is probably the player of the year in our area," Quinlan said. "I don't think there's another team in our area that's done what we have and had one player that meant so much to the team."

MacMurray said he went through a down year in 2011 after earning all-state honors as a freshman. He thought he put too much pressure on himself to succeed, but has since learned to trust his teammates more.

Now he and the rest of the Seahawks are reaping the rewards.

"This year I just wanted to enjoy myself, and that's the difference, I think," he said. "We're just out there having fun and we're playing well."

Hilton Head High 2, St. James 1 (OT)

Goals -- Hilton Head High: Francisco Gomez (16th); Chris MacMurray (95th); St. James: Quadarius Grate (40th)