The Lambert boys soccer team’s drive towards a 5-0 state semifinal win over Campbell and a berth in the Class 7A championship game began with a moment of acute anxiety.
For much of the first half on Tuesday night, the Spartans were taking it to the Longhorns. Campbell heavily pressured Lambert’s midfielders, and tough pursuits and crafty footwork gave the Spartans plenty of chances in the opposing half.
The first truly dangerous one came with just over 12 minutes left in the half. Both teams were scrambling for possession in the box, and a Spartans player ended up ripping a turnaround shot low and to the right. All Lambert sophomore goalkeeper Cole Scott could do was react, but he got a hand to the ball with a full-out dive.
Not even two minutes later, though, Campbell pushed forward again, and Angel Gonzalez got a through ball at his feet on the left side with no one but Scott in front of him.
Scott made the point-blank save, though, and the Longhorns (17-4-1) were on their way up.
“They’re not getting past me on 1v1s,” Scott said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
That wasn’t the last of Campbell’s chances in the first half — Gonzalez had another good look, with a strike to the left missing just over the upper 90 — but Scott’s saves gave the Longhorns new energy.
“You see someone with his story, starting off as a backup JV keeper to be doing what he’s doing now, if he’s going to do that, we owe it to him to work hard and bust our butts,” Longhorns senior forward Logan Racine said.
It’s true: Scott started the year on junior varsity, and he’s the third keeper that the Longhorns have used this year, and Tuesday was just his ninth start of the season. Lambert took the energy that his saves provided and turned a match once slanted against them into a blowout.
Racine got the first goal with just over 4:07 minutes remaining in the first half, heading in a long throw-in from Jay Patterson. The Longhorns didn’t immediately explode in the second half, and Scott made another great save with 35 minutes left to maintain the lead, but a four-goal deluge began with 13 minutes left.
Patterson went first, with his long, low free-kick taking a deflection and skittering into the left side of the net; with 8:43 to play, Hayden Fontana finished Thomas Powers’ blocked strike from close range; with 6:33 left, a long, bouncing ball from Fontana went in; and with 3:09 remaining, Racine forcefully headed in Tyler Nadiak’s corner kick.
Once Wednesday’s outcome became obvious, the anticipation for a future matchup began. The Longhorns are now set to face South Forsyth, who beat Peachtree Ridge 2-1 in extra time on Tuesday in the other semifinal matchup, in the state finals on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at McEachern High School.
It will be the first time that two Forsyth County schools have faced each other in a state championship matchup. The teams have played twice already this season, with Lambert winning the first one 1-0 and South winning the second in penalties after the teams ended regulation and extra time tied 3-3.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t play it here,” Longhorns head coach Chris Wilson said. “I think we’d sell out.”