Soccer: Bengals Blank Mauldin, Advance to Upper State

Blythewood 1, Mauldin 0

Blythewood's Justin Germano heads the ball over the Mauldin defense in Saturday's 1-0 victory. (Photo/Kristy Kimball Massey)

Blythewood’s Justin Germano heads the ball over the Mauldin defense in Saturday’s 1-0 victory. (Photo/Kristy Kimball Massey)

BLYTHEWOOD – Peter Wittig had to pause to collect his thoughts Saturday night. While his team walked off the Blythewood soccer field and celebrated loudly following a 1-0 4A state playoff victory over second-seeded Mauldin, the Blythewood head coach had to think about how to sum up the afternoon.

“We’ve talked about determination and believing that we could do it,” he said. “It was that determination that helped us. We’ve got to make that extra effort to get a win. This is definitely a special group.”

Blythewood (19-5) plays host to J.L. Mann for the upper state championship Tuesday. The winner of that match plays for the state crown at River Bluff Stadium Saturday.

Grayson Barber’s point-blank goal at the eight-minute mark of the game proved the difference.

With eight minutes to go, Dillon Wood threw in a ball from the right corner of the field. The throw was strong enough to settle in front of Barber.

Barber positioned himself on the goalie’s right side and knocked it in from just a few feet away.

“We got the point blank by keeping moving in the box in the throw in,” Barber said. “We got a good flick in, and we put it in the back of the net when it counted.”

The Mavericks (14-5) were taken out of their usual means of playing the game, head coach Joe Siatowski said.

“We wound up falling into playing their style of the game,” he said. “They kick the ball forward and let their speed try to win. We’re more of a finesse team, a technical team that tries to play hard. They just got one there in the end, and that hurt us.”

The top-seeded Bengals needed all the energy and strength they could muster against the Mavericks, going scoreless for one half and most of the second.

Mauldin took an early shot in the game, but Blythewood worked the ball back down the field and took four shots at the Mavericks goal, three of which goalkeeper Nick Decker grabbed hold of.

Blythewood kept the pressure on Mauldin throughout the half, but opportunities for shots were often quickly flooded with orange jerseys, or just bad luck.

Barber seemingly had a moment when he had a shot at an empty goal, but with only the goalkeeper charging out to meet him, the two collided and Mauldin players swept the ball out of the way.

In another instance, Barber got past two Mavericks defenders and booted a cross kick near the goal, but no Bengal was in position to knock the ball in.

“We couldn’t put it in the back of the net, we could not connect,” Wittig said. “(Against Mauldin) we didn’t have that many chances. We had one early and a couple later on when I was like, ‘man if we had somebody there …’”

After 72 minutes of battling, good fortune landed on Blythewood suddenly.

Down 1-0, the Mavericks stepped up their intensity in the final minutes and made several runs at the Blythewood goal, including three Austin Williams drives, but all Mauldin’s efforts were denied.

“Our defense was stellar in the back,” Barber said. “We didn’t let anything in. We got the job done, and now we’re in the upper state championship.”

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