High School Sports

Hilton Head boys soccer joins girls team with playoff berth in state championship

The Hilton Head Island High School girls soccer team better make room on the bus to Columbia.

The boys are coming along for the ride.

A day after the Lady Seahawks clinched a berth in the Class 3-A state championship game with a win over Brookland-Cayce, the Hilton Head High boys secured a spot of their own, as a strong second half powered the Seahawks to a 3-0 win over North Myrtle Beach on Tuesday night in the Lower State championship.

The victory sealed the Seahawks' first-ever trip to the state title match, where they will take on Fort Mill at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Stadium.

"It means everything," junior Robbie Iulo said. "We're setting a path for everyone else that comes after us."

There was no late drama or theatrics in this one. Unlike in earlier rounds, where the Seahawks survived thanks to key overtime goals and penalty kicks, Hilton Head High scored early against the Chiefs (14-9) before cruising to victory in the second half.

The Seahawks jumped out front in the 11th minute, when Francisco Gomez took a pass from Chris MacMurray in front of the net before slipping it past freshman keeper Dallas Fields for the early goal. The lead ballooned to 3-0 during a four-minute flurry following intermission, when Bennett Murphy banged a goal in on a free kick from Ruben Romero in the 63rd before Romero capped the scoring in the 67th after beating a Chiefs defender one-on-one down the field for the score.

"We just went through our normal routine," Iulo said. "Everyone was a lot more nervous than usual. We've never been here before in school history. We just came out and played our game, and now we're going to state."

For a team that has made a living on late-game thrills, this latest victory was almost too easy.

"Under championship conditions, we played some really good soccer in the second half," coach Wayne Quinlan said. "And that's where we got our confidence and momentum going."

Momentum is one word for it. The Lower State championship marked the 17th consecutive win for Hilton Head High, which began the season with a frustrating 0-3 start.

"Once we won three or four games in a row, we said, 'We've got this. We're going to be champions,' " Romero said. "I was sure about that."

Added Quinlan: "We've got a lot of momentum going. We're going to seize that momentum and we're going to ride it out."

After cheers and hugs subsided following Hilton Head High's biggest win to date, the Seahawks quickly turned their attention to this weekend's season finale. And not just their own.

Quinlan said the Seahawks will drive up to Columbia a day early to support their female counterparts, who will take on Eastside at 5 p.m. in search of a second consecutive state championship.

"They've been around the block a few times," Quinlan said of the girls team. "This is new ground for us."

Hilton Head High 3, North Myrtle Beach 0

Goals -- Francisco Gomez (11th); Bennett Murphy (63rd); Ruben Romero (67th).