BECKLEY, W.Va. — Fairmont Senior boys soccer coach Darrin Paul had a difficult time envisioning a more exhilarating win that what the Polar Bears pulled off in the 2019 Class AA-A final — a 2-1 overtime victory over Robert C. Byrd.
Little did Paul know he’d only have to wait a year for a win of equal importance in perhaps even more improbable fashion.
Fairmont Senior overcame an early 2-0 deficit against Charleston Catholic on Saturday, getting even by halftime and then going ahead for good on Jonas Branch’s goal 7 minutes into the second half to secure a 3-2 win and Class AA-A championship at Carter Stadium.
“I didn’t think anything could top last year, but the fact that they went down 2-0 and showed the resiliency they’ve shown all year to win 3-2 is something,” Paul said. “Then they fight for the last (30) minutes after Jonas scored the game winner. It just shows how committed and how much this team loves each other. They work their tails off.”
The victory gave Fairmont Senior (19-3) its second straight state title and third in the last six seasons.
It was Branch who knotted the match at 2 with a high-level goal in the 21st minute of action. FSHS had cut the Charleston Catholic (9-2) lead in half just 4 minutes earlier when Towns found the back of the net.
“I think we have three of the best players at their positions in Bubby, Jonas and Isaac (Branch) and they consistently pick the team up and work very well together,” Paul said.
The contest stayed tied at 2 until Branch gave the Polar Bears their first and only lead early in the second half.
Catholic came out in attack mode and struck first when Zion Suddeth capitalized off a free kick to score in the 5th minute. Liam McGinley then scored off a corner kick in the 12th minute to give the Irish a two-goal lead.
“We told them at half that we’d given them all their opportunities in the first half with set pieces,” Paul said. “We had to stop being careless and we actually helped knock the first goal in the net. We had to play smart defense and Isaac, who I think is the best defender in the state, helped lock that defense down.”