George Washington's Drew Davis (left) and South Charleston's Jonah Cosby (right) try to get a head on the ball during Saturday's sectional championship game.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It all happened so fast, South Charleston didn't even get to enjoy its second-half lead against unbeaten and No. 1-ranked George Washington.
Because 14 seconds after the underdog Black Eagles took a 3-2 lead, GW tied it up. And exactly seven minutes later, the Patriots were back in front.
Drew Davis drilled his second goal of the match with 30 minutes, 38 seconds left Saturday afternoon and GW held on for a 4-3 victory in the boys Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 title game at Andrew Jordon Field at Trace Fork.
The win sends the Patriots (20-0-2) into the regional finals against Woodrow Wilson (12-5-4) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Trace Fork. Woodrow has won eight in a row.
"You come to a game like this,'' said GW coach Tom Hopper, "and it doesn't matter how you played during the regular season, because most of the time these folks are going to come prepared. They played well, and we were lucky. I thought we lost some composure, but we seemed to regain it there near the end.
"I don't know if [the quick goal] stunned them, but it probably caught them off guard. They were on a high emotionally and we weren't, at that point. I think we were kind of stunned. But we were able to persevere and got some good breaks there.''
The Patriots, who downed SC 5-0 early in the season, found themselves trailing by a goal when a streaking Jonah Cosby scored off a free kick by Devonyet Harris from about 40 yards out with 37:52 left in the game. All three goals by the Black Eagles (10-6-4) came off set pieces.
But the euphoria of that 3-2 lead didn't last long.
GW stormed down the field and got the equalizer when Graham Platz stuffed the ball in the net from point-blank range off a feed from Peter Nelson with 37:38 on the clock.
"We have a two-minute philosophy,'' Davis said, "where whenever anyone scores a goal, we go as hard as we can for the next two minutes. It definitely put them on their heels, and we were just going on with our momentum after that.''
Seven minutes later, the free-scoring game continued when GW's Noah Miller got possession deep in his own end and drilled a long pass that caught Davis in stride as he split two defenders along the back line. His goal put GW up for good at 4-3.
"That was just a connection we've been building on this whole season,'' Davis said. "We knew it was going to happen eventually, so we just kept it simple and looked for our options.''
SC coach Ronnie Means acknowledged the momentum swing that occurred after Cosby's score put his team up 3-2.
"We just had a mental breakdown there,'' Means said, "and it's something we talked about, staying home on defense, because we know they like to make those runs up the middle, and that's exactly what happened.
"We got out of position and they had a guy streaking down the middle and played it in to him and he got a goal out of it. That was one of the few mental breakdowns we had all game, and it cost us. But you can't put that on the kids. They were giving it all they could.''
Indeed, South Charleston didn't go away when GW took first-half leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on scores by Davis (a header off Nelson's corner kick) and Daniel Glines (assist Nelson).
The Black Eagles knotted it at 2-all by halftime with goals by Cosby off a corner kick and a beauty by Hayden Warnock following another free kick by Harris from midfield. Harris' long boot caught Warnock perfectly on the dead run down the right sideline and he drilled the ball home with 1:14 remaining before halftime.
"That was something we started working on last year, really, with our athleticism,'' Means said. "We can get up in the air and get our head on the ball.''
GW, which had 15 seniors on its roster compared to SC's five, controlled the ball the majority of the time and finished with an 8-4 edge in shots on goal.
It marked the second straight win for GW over SC in the sectional finals, after last year's match went to penalty kicks. In 2010, the Black Eagles knocked off the Patriots in the sectional semifinals 2-0.
"We know when we get to the sectionals, it's going to be tough,'' Hopper said. "We made it hard on ourselves today with some critical fouls at the wrong time and there was a little bit of miscommunication back there.''
For SC, it was another close but disappointing loss in a bid to make the regionals.
"We came out with a game plan,'' Means said, "and the kids stuck to it and executed it pretty well. GW hasn't been beat all season and has been one of the best teams I've seen since I started coaching five years ago.
"We had them on the ropes. We had them down in the second half and got some bad breaks again. It didn't go our way and they pulled it out, and that's what a good team does. We had our keeper [Jacob Gordon] go out with a head injury and come back in and fight for us. We threw in a keeper [Brian Stevens] we hadn't played all year. Some tough situations we had to overcome, but we fought the whole way.''
Gordon twice sat out a few minutes after a big first-half collision with GW's Noah Miller that left both players momentarily stunned and prone on the turf. Miller also returned.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.