With 2:11 left during Friday's matchup against West Forsyth, Lambert junior Hugh Headrick sent a pass soaring across the field to teammate Sean Renz, who sent a header past the Wolverines' goalie to give the Longhorns a 2-1 region victory.
West junior Nate Lloyd scored within the first five minutes with a line-drive free kick that whizzed bottom right past the goalie’s feet.
West’s 1-0 lead marked the first time all season Lambert faced a first-half deficit, said Longhorns head coach Chris Wilson.
“We talked about every game, it's the first and last five minutes of the half,” Wilson said after the game. “It’s the first time we’ve given up a goal in the first half and been down 1-0 all season. It’s great that we can prove that we can score in the first half.”
Lambert’s equalizing goal came from Colin Vogel with 9:48 left in the first half. At halftime, Wilson told his team to sit back and remember how important those last five minutes of the game were going to be. He told his team to relax and play Lambert’s brand of soccer.
“I just think we’re smart defensively,” WIlson said. “We try not to exhaust ourselves so that we can go after teams there at the end. We felt like it was just a matter of time because [West] was exerting so much effort. So we started stepping in and letting them come to us and we started to pick off passes. Our guys are fit.”
West head coach Richard Ortega said after the game that he respected the fact that Lambert’s style of play but was surprised by their attack throughout the second half.
“Tonight was heartbreaking because we were the better team,” Ortega said. “We played the ball on the ground. We tried being patient in possession in transition. We were surprised because we didn’t expect Lambert to play the long ball. They chose to defend hard and then kick the ball long over and over again. We were the better team tonight.”
Friday’s win guaranteed that Lambert will at least qualify for the Class 7A state tournament at least as the region's fourth seed with a chance to climb to the No. 2 seed, depending on how the Longhorns fare in their last region match of the season against South Forsyth.
“Our practice shirt has stars for winning region or for winning state,” Wilson said. “So when our guys put these on, every team feels the pressure. It’s nice because we’ve never not made the playoffs but we’re gonna be gunning for the two seed by beating South next Friday.”
The Longhorns (10-3, 3-2 Region 6-7A) will host South Forsyth on Friday.
Ortega said that he and his coaching staff wanted to use the season to build a foundation of “playing attractive soccer” for years to come at West Forsyth, and believes that close games like this one prove that they are well on their way.
“Part of our plan was to come into the school and develop a style and culture,” Ortega said. “They’re going to win and lose thousands of soccer games, but now it’s about building the right culture and doing these players and their talent justice by playing attractive soccer. Going forward West is going to be something special. We are going to be the team to beat.”
The loss eliminated West Forsyth from the state tournament, but Wilson needs the Wolverines to play spoiler against Forsyth Central in their final region match of the season for Lambert to host a playoff match.
The Wolverines (6-6-1, 1-4 Region 6-7A) will host Central on Thursday.