It was an overtime goal by Dino Stavros that sent South Forsyth to the state championship, and it was an overtime goal by Dino Stavros that won South Forsyth a state championship.
Days after Stavros scored the game-winning goal in overtime against top-ranked South Gwinnett, he repeated the feat in Friday’s Class 7A boys soccer state championship game against Lambert, sending the War Eagles past the Longhorns 2-1.
“I saw space open and knew that we were tied in overtime,” Stavros said. “I had to take the opportunity to finish the game off.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the first overtime period, Jose Ventura dribbled the ball past the Lambert defenders and to a streaking Stavros down the sidelines, who sent the ball to the left as time expired.
Lambert took plenty of shots in the final 10-minute overtime period but none of them found the net.
“I’m overjoyed for my kids,” South head coach Chere Thomas said. “They’ve worked so extremely hard all season and they never quit. I think it’s a great thing to come in as an underdog and then prove everyone wrong.”
Thomas was unsure of whether she was the first female coach to win a boys state championship in Georgia, but she "sure hopes” she is.
“It would mean a lot to me, because it proves you can do anything to all the young women or ladies out there,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female. You can accomplish anything. For the school to take a chance on me ... it’s hard to put in words. It’s a blessing.”
The War Eagles first took the lead in the first half after Gavin Williams sent a beautiful pass from about 30 yards away from the goal to team captain Patrick Kelly, who was standing right in front of the Lambert goal.
Kelly one-touched it in to give South the early lead.
“This is amazing,” Kelly said. “We’ve been working towards this all year long. I’m just so proud of our whole team and the work we’ve put into it.”
Lambert equalized in the second half after Chase Bell scored a goal that sailed past all the War Eagle defenders without getting too far off the ground. Initially, it looked like it might have hit off a defender for an own goal, but the official score awarded the goal to Bell.
“South came to play from the start to the finish,” Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. “I thought we were a little slow in the first half, but thought we came out in the second half and played really tough. Unfortunately, I don’t know if we played the whole game as tough as we could have, but I’m proud of my guys for getting here.”
South Forsyth, which was the No. 4 team coming out of Region 6-7A, spent several weeks ranked as the top Class 7A team in the state but lost two of their last three games of the regular season, one being a 2-0 loss to Lambert.
However, the War Eagles offense caught fire throughout the state tournament, scoring 12 goals in their five victories.
“I think our kids finally realized how good they could actually be,” Thomas said. “Once they realized that, there was no stopping them.”
South returns several key players to their team next year, such as Stavros and Williams. Thomas said she thought her team had the talent to win a state championship in 2020 before the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now she has her players bought in and believing they will be back next year for another trophy.
“This is just the first,” Stavros said. “We have plenty more to come.”