It was a while before Lambert boys soccer coach Chris Wilson spoke to his team during their postgame huddle. As Wilson looked around at his players, the grins on each of their faces — the coach’s included — said all that needed to be said about the night.
After one half of play in the Class AAAA state quarterfinals on Friday, the No. 1-ranked Longhorns were in the exact spot they were a full year and one day earlier — holding a 1-0 lead over the same McIntosh team that scored two goals against them in the second half on May 10, 2011 and shattered their state championship dreams.
Not this time.
Bakawsu Kinteh erased the No. 2 Chiefs’ hopes of finding a quick equalizer by scoring his second goal of the night three and a half minutes into the second half, and the unbeaten Longhorns played a man up for the final 26 minutes in a 3-0 victory at The Horn.
“It was so painful,” Kinteh said of the Longhorns’ loss in the 2011 quarterfinals.
“We [went] through that pain for ... the whole summer, so this is revenge. It’s their turn now, they have to go through that.”
Kinteh, who scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season in the victory, got the Longhorns (21-0, Region 7-AAAA No. 1 seed) on the scoreboard in the eighth minute.
Bobby Hopper fed a long pass through the middle of the Chiefs’ defense to Kinteh, who was standing a little more than 10 yards out from the goal.
Kinteh got his defender out of position and found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Kinteh feigned a straight-on kick, which drew the keeper out into a sliding save attempt, but he instead tapped the ball left before sending a shot into the wide-open net.
“I was just trying to fake him out, because I knew he was going to fall for it,” Kinteh said.
McIntosh (17-3-1, Region 3-AAAA No. 1 seed) created a handful of solid scoring attempts in the first half, with the best opportunity coming in the 10th minute.
Carson Brooks found a breakaway attempt down the middle of the field but knocked the ball too far out ahead of himself, allowing Lambert goalkeeper Michael Zambetti to charge out of the net and scoop it up to end the threat.
Zambetti was forced to make a more acrobatic save in the 30th minute, leaping up to bat back a long kick that nearly dropped in under the crossbar. Zambetti’s momentum carried him to the ground in the net, but the defenders in front of him cleared the ball away from the net to prevent a second shot attempt.
“We just stayed organized in the back and communicated a lot,” said Zambetti, who recorded his 14th shutout of the season.
“We wouldn’t back down to anything and kept working hard throughout the game. It was an overall team effort, not only to get the win, but to get the shutout.”
Lambert saw few scoring chances of its own in the first half, as the Chiefs’ back line of defense seemed to dominate possession of the ball when it reached them.
The Longhorns quickly changed that in the second half.
Kinteh received another long pass and turned it into a breakaway opportunity down the right side of the field, before launching an angled shot past the goalkeeper and into the left side of the net from about 25 yards out in the 44th minute.
“They’re the toughest team we’ve come across this year,” Wilson said.
“We fixed the few things we weren’t doing in the first half. It forced them, when we scored the second goal, to play a little bit differently, and then when we scored the third goal, they had to play a very direct game.”
Lambert’s third goal came in the 64th minute, 10 minutes after a McIntosh player drew a red card that gave the Longhorns an 11 on 10 advantage for the remainder of play.
Trexler Bennett delivered a perfect corner kick to Hopper, who whipped his head sideways, redirecting the ball into the net to put the finishing touches on the victory.
The Longhorns advance to the state semifinals for the first time in program history and will host No. 6 Marist (15-6) on Tuesday. Marist defeated No. 5 Glynn Academy 3-1 on Friday.
“It’s sweet, very sweet,” Wilson said of the win. “[Our players] have worked very hard and they deserve every bit of it.”
Senior defender Brendan Everett agreed, but was quick to point out the team’s job isn’t finished, and that there are things much more meaningful than revenge.
“That was the most satisfying victory in my career, but there’s still two more we need to get,” Everett said.
“That will be a lot more satisfying.”