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Soccer: Lambert beats Denmark, sets up showdown with South in title match
Seun Olateru-Olagbegi
Lambert players celebrate with junior Seun Olateru-Olagbegi after his second-half goal sealed the Longhorns' 2-0 victory over Denmark in the Class 7A Final Four. - photo by David Roberts

Seun Olateru-Olagbegi wanted only five more minutes. 

Lambert boys soccer coach Chris Wilson inserted Olateru-Olagbegi into the second half of Tuesday's Class 7A Final Four match against Denmark, and it didn't take long for Olateru-Olagbegi to flash his ability. 

All alone on a breakaway toward the Danes' goal, Olateru-Olagbegi was stuffed when Denmark keeper David Gad came about 10 yards out of goal to make a spectacular play to prevent a goal. 

When Wilson substituted Olateru-Olagbegi out of the game, Lambert's junior forward told his coach he knew he could score if Wilson gave him five more minutes of playing time. 

So, with Lambert holding a one-goal lead late in the second half, Wilson gave Olateru-Olagbegi those five minutes.

It paid off.

Olateru-Olagbegi responded with a goal with 0.8 seconds remaining in the match, helping Lambert past Denmark and into the Class 7A state championship game, 2-0.

"We've talked about it all season. We have a lot of depth," Wilson said. "There's a lot of competition on our team. It's hard when you get into the playoffs and you start winning, you want to keep the same strong group out there. But we have a lot of depth, and this is a kid who every day in practice, he gets after it and it's just a matter of time for him."

The goal came from about 22 yards out, straight off Olateru-Olagbegi's right foot and past a diving Gad. It not only marked Olateru-Olagbegi's first goal of the season, but his first at the varsity level.

"It was nerve-wracking, but after the first good touch I got back in it," Olateru-Olagbegi said of his first touch on Tuesday.

Yeonsung Lee's goal off a failed clearance with 29:50 left in the match broke a scoreless tie.

Lee emerged with possession following a brief scrum in front of Denmark's goal, chipping the ball past Gad and into the back of the net. 

Lee is a team captain this season and one of Lambert's top scoring threats, but Wilson drew the connection to Lee's role the last time Lambert won a state championship game in 2019. In fact, it was Lee's goal in the final minutes of that match that carried the Longhorns past Lakeside-DeKalb.

"Yeonsung Lee, who scored the goal tonight, he scored the last state championship goal against Lakeside-DeKalb in 2019. He was Seun," Wilson said. "I put him in the last 10 minutes, because I just knew he would get something, and he did. When we needed rest, he was somebody who went in, and Seun was that guy tonight."

Lee was at the heart of several early chances for Lambert on Tuesday.

The Longhorns had four chances at goal inside the first seven minutes of the match, including a free kick that sailed just over the top of the net. 

On defense, Lambert was able to contain a potent Denmark offense, led by Coastal Carolina signee Dolapo Morakinyo.

"When a kid has that kind of ability and that skill and that speed, you either want to put them on their weaker foot, or if his back is to our goal, keep it that way," Wilson said. "We harp on it. We talk about pressure and cover all the time. My two center backs are fantastic. I mean, James Cash is going to go to Piedmont and Connor [Coniglio] is a junior and he'll get options next year. They're great defenders who are easy to work with and they're very coachable."

Lambert opened the second half with an immediate shot on goal by Chase Bell off a cross, which was saved by Gad.

Minutes later, the Longhorns finally broke through on Lee's goal and managed to take control of the match.

Denmark adjusted by shifting another forward to the top of its formation, leading to a couple of opportunities, first on a Curry Coranado free kick that narrowly missed the top-left corner, then another by Coranado on a laser from about 20 yards out that was saved by Liam Leja with 1:10 remaining.

Lambert broke loose on the counter, and with Gad out of position in the midfield, Nick Trinh let loose a shot at an open goal from the 30-yard hash, but it sailed inches to the right. 

The Longhorns' next chance came a minute later, with Olateru-Olagbegi providing the dagger.

"For him to be able to score his first goal in the semifinals in the Final Four, that's a memory that kid will keep forever," Wilson said. "It will hopefully propel us and give us more in the finals."

The loss ends Denmark's spectacular playoff run, which began after a 5-1 thrashing of South Forsyth to lock up the No. 2 seed, then continued as the Danes defeated Duluth 3-2, blanked Roswell 3-0 and stunned top-seeded Campbell 2-1.

"It's pretty incredible," Denmark coach Brett Godwin said. "I mean, obviously everyone had COVID take away opportunities from the last year. To jump up to 7A and immediately have some validation and success, it feels good. It's bittersweet in the moment, obviously. We wanted to be able to push on to the championship game, but it shows what the players are putting in. It's giving the validation of the effort they're putting into the program."

Godwin played for Wilson at Lambert, which points to the consistency of the Longhorns' soccer program, something Wilson believes is a key reason why both Lambert's boys and girls soccer teams will play Friday for a Class 7A title.

"Lambert's a special place academically, but athletically, we've had success from the get-go with all of our programs, specifically in the spring," Wilson said. "I think it just drives and motivates. Our soccer program, we are a program. We're one together. Coach [Scott] Luthart and I started the program together, and people ask me, and I say it's the stability. You look at all the other schools and they've had turnovers with coaches." 

Lambert's girls soccer team will face West Forsyth at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Duluth High School, with Lambert's boys soccer team following at 8 p.m. against South Forsyth. 

Lambert's girls prevailed in penalty kicks against West Forsyth in March, while Lambert's boys beat South Forsyth 2-0 last month.