Two of the Grand Strand’s top high school soccer teams battled it out for some hardware Thursday morning.
And with so much talent on the field, it was inevitable that the match would go down to the wire.
Senior Jake Perito’s goal in the 87th minute allowed Socastee to claim a 2-1 victory over Myrtle Beach in the Homegrown Hospitality Soccer at the Beach tournament championship game held at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
“The way the kids responded after being tied up was great. They were tough and gritty,” said Socastee coach Byron Owen, who is in his first year after taking over for Memo Suarez. “The goal there at the end was just a result of a really good team effort. We always stress working hard and playing hard, which is always important and they did that today. It was good.”
In a match pitting a pair of the state’s best in their respective classifications – Socastee ranked No. 13 in Class AAAA, while Myrtle Beach is No. 2 in Class AAA – Perito proved to be the difference, scoring both of the Braves’ goals.
His first in the opening minutes – the result of an assist by sophomore Chris Matlasheski – provided Socastee an early advantage, a 1-0 lead it would take into halftime.
Undermanned on Thursday due to injuries to seniors Mitch McCrackin and Adolfo Aguilar, Myrtle Beach still did its best to make the most of its situation. Senior Elijah Rice’s goal in the 58th minute pulled the Seahawks even, keeping the Seahawks very much in the thick of things.
“We were a little shorthanded, but we played really well as a team. We dominated a lot of possessions back-and-forth,” said Rice, who also was a standout for the Seahawks’ football team. “We learned a lot. We know even if we’re shorthanded, we can still play and put it all together.”
But in this one, Myrtle Beach would fall just short.
Perito’s goal late in the match was followed by an impressive save by goalkeeper Cole Renfrow just before the game ended. As Myrtle Beach attempted a corner kick and headed one towards the top of the net, the Socastee net minder leaped and grabbed the header to seal the win.
“It was nerve-racking,” said Renfrow, whose team avenged a 4-2 loss to Myrtle Beach earlier this month. “But we knew we could get them this time. It was a little scary at the end, but we’ve been in that situation plenty of times before.”
Renfrow racked up 14 saves to help the Braves, and the senior shared the credit with his teammates.
“I trusted my defense. They didn’t really allow many balls to come back my way, so it’s mostly them,” Renfrow said. “I made some saves, but they trust me and I trust them. It worked out.”
Myrtle Beach coach Jason Himmelsbach was impressed with both school’s performances in the annual tourney.
“It was a great championship for what was a great tournament,” Himmelsbach said. “We had a lot of good soccer over the last couple of days and to culminate in a hard-fought match that went down to the wire is as good as it gets.”