Gallery by Heather Belcher
Greenbrier East boys soccer coach Lucas Lemine implored his team throughout the postseason to focus solely on the next assignment.
Following Saturday’s match at Paul Cline Stadium in Beckley, the lads from Fairlea no longer have any assignments.
Now the message is solely “Mission Accomplished” after the Spartans secured the Class AAA state championship.
Competing in the state tournament for the first time in school history, the Spartans captured the sport’s biggest prize with a 2-0 win over Spring Mills.
“It is indescribable. I don’t think I really understand all that is going on right now,” East’s senior all-stater Adam Seams said. “It is all still sinking in. Hopefully tonight it will all sink in. This senior class has been working together since we were eight and ten years old. Coach would come and watch us in rec ball and we made a great bond with him early. Now we are here in the moment. We figured it out and we finished.”
After making the move from back line defender to an attacker Friday and scoring the deciding goal in a 2-1 semifinal win over Wheeling Park, Seams made the similar move early in the second half Saturday.
“I could feel I had a goal in me. It was a big game and I felt like I had to do something for the team,” Seams said. “At halftime I told coach that I was going to switch at some point and he told me to do whatever you want. At 10 (minutes) I told Chase lets mix it up again and it happened to work.”
The move paid dividends for the Spartans when Seams received a pass at the midfield mark and went on the attack.
“The ball got played to my feet and the defender was on my back. I bounced it to Peter Furlong and I did a little spin. Peter played a great ball back to me,” Seams said. “I shoved off the defender a little bit and took a heavy touch to get it further and get more speed. I saw the keeper and he took a crazy good angle. I thought he might save it, but I passed it into the back of the net.”
The goal in the 55th minute broke a scoreless tie, sending the raucous Greenbrier East crowd into another frenzy with confetti blowing in the brisk wind.
“The fans just went crazy,” Seams said. “The fans were insane today and they have been insane all year. Today the whole community came out and it was amazing. To perform for them is indescribable.”
Just as he had done for the game-winner against Park, Seams pulled the keeper out and beat him with his left foot, going inside the far post.
“I would say 70 percent of my goals have been with my left foot and usually a pass from Luke Dolin,” Seams said. “I returned him the favor today with an assist. Anytime I am using my left foot, I usually pass it in the bottom right corner.”
The Spartans stayed on the defensive in the first half and managed just one shot on goal which came on a blast from Chase Mizia.
“The wind hurt us in the first half. We couldn’t hit a long ball. The second half we were able to hit a long ball and that got (Spring Mills) stretched,” Lemine said. “With the wind holding it up (in the first half), their kids were excellent at winning the ball in the air and getting it back up. When the wind was with us, we were able to play a little bit longer and find bigger pockets of space.”
Greenbrier East doubled the advantage in the 66th minute when Seams worked the middle of the field and found Dolin free for a scoring chance.
“I just turned around and saw the space and I ran into it,” Dolin said. “Adam found my feet like he always does. I put it away and it was a great goal. I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I just tried to let my head be clear and find the back of the net.”
“I got a great pass and saw Luke running in space. I had to wait just perfect so the keeper couldn’t come out, but also the defender couldn’t get there,” Seams said. “The keeper took another good angle, but Luke took a great touch and found the back of the net.”
For Spring Mills coach Amed Suazo, the day was about missed opportunities for his team. The Cardinals couldn’t connect on its three shots in the first half or either of its two chances in the second half.
“We missed so many chances and we paid for it today. (Greenbrier East) played really well and when they had the chances they scored,” Suazo said. “You can’t rely on the last minutes. Whenever you have the chances, whatever the time it is, you have to score it. We created opportunities, but we didn’t score.”
A big reason that Spring Mills was left frustrated was the work by Greenbrier East keeper Joe Cochran who once again was stellar between the posts.
“This is sensational,” Cochran said after the win. “Starting off the game I was a little nervous. It was a big crowd and it was the state tournament. After that first save though, I was clam and I felt like the team was going to play well and we did.”
Lemine has long lauded the play of his standout keeper and he had full confidence in Cochran Saturday.
“I told the coaches before the game that Joe was going to be even better today than what he has been. He obviously was and he was calm. All of the guys guys were calm,” Lemine said.
Lemine himself admitted to also being calm for the state tournament games after the gauntlet his team ran in sectional and regional play.
“There have been years where us, Woodrow Wilson, Oak Hill and Princeton have been four of the best teams in the state. We have a tough section and then you go to our region and Capital has been good and George Washington will always be a horse. It’s a difficult region,” Lemine said. “Getting out of this region is why I felt a sense of calm going into these games. I was never really nervous. I was confident in my team because we go through the ringer every year and we don’t play an easy schedule. They were ready.”
After experiencing postseason gut-punches the last two seasons, Lemine never lost faith that his players could win a state championship.
“I am just happy for these kids and this community that showed out today. I don’t think they had to, but I think the kids felt like they had something to prove to the state. We have been ranked and we have beat the good teams. We have done this for several years,” Lemine said. “It can’t get any better than this. I would love to say I am taking them all to Disney World, but I obviously can’t do that. These kids are absolutely incredible and it breaks my heart that I don’t get them for longer. That is how it goes. You get chances to make impressions on them, but often times it is the kids that make impressions you.”
East finishes its season with a 21-2 record.