Win and you’re in.
That is the situation for the Camden boys’ soccer team following Thursday’s gut-wrenching 2-1 loss to host Dreher at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 3-5 in Region 4-AAA play and 7-6 overall. Camden will travel to Richland Northeast on Tuesday with the winner of that match earning a spot in the AAA state tournament.
The Dogs came ever-so-close to clinching that berth on Thursday against a Blue Devil team which topped CHS in their first meeting at Zemp Stadium, 4-0.
"This one really hurts," said second-year CHS head coach Mark Chickering. "We played well enough to win but just could not pull it out. He made save after save, really frustrating their attackers."
The hosts scored the lone goal of the first 40 minutes when the Blue Devils made a run in the middle of the field, pulling CHS goalkeeper Richard White away from the net and sliding a shot home for the goal in the 24th minute.
"Richard White was outstanding in goal. He kept us in the match all night," Chickering said.
Two minutes into the second half, Dreher struck again with a goal which made it 2-0.
The guests nearly cut the lead in half in the 50th minute when Nick Ranges split two defenders and headed a cross from Moises Mata about a foot wide of the goal.
Camden did not miss its next scoring chance as, in the 56th minute, Mata fired a shot which the DHS keeper batted back into play. After the ball bounced around, Roberto Pena fired one past the keeper.
In the final 25 minutes of the match, Chickering switched his team's formation from a 4-5-1 scheme to a 4-4-2 set in order to try and apply more pressure on the Dreher net. The move paid off but the Blue Devils were able to withstand the surge.
Playing without injured starting defensive players Bryan Jones and Todd Kahler, Chickering said he could not have been more proud of his team’s defensive and, overall, effort.
"We played hard and unselfish," he said. "We’re real banged up right now, we played with half our starting defense sidelined and guys like Mackey Cantey and Gray Batten stepped right in and we did not miss a beat.
"I really can’t say enough about how well our defense played. Jack Crayne has really done a good job of leading those guys all season."
Chickering, who said prior to this match that every region contest would be one with playoff implications, knows his team has one last chance to get into the post-season and RNE --- which Camden defeated, 3-2, earlier this season --- stands in the Bulldogs’ way.
"A win (over Dreher) would have made it much easier on us," he said before looking ahead to Tuesday’s pairing with the Cavaliers. "We should be healthy and back to full-strength, so we are real excited about that."