IRMO – They may fight like brothers, but they win like a team.
The Nation Ford Falcons boys’ lacrosse team won the 2023 5A state championship Saturday night at Irmo High School with a 13-10 over the Wando Warriors. The win gives the school its sixth athletic state championship and the first for the lacrosse program.
Last year, Nation Ford lost to this same Wando team. Sophomore Josh Ameo, who has led the Falcons this year with 84 goals, said the team had to win for the seniors, one of which was his brother Owen. Josh Ameo led the Falcons with seven goals of the 13 Nation Ford had in the game.
“I had to do it for my seniors,” Josh Ameo said. “Especially for my brother. I knew it was the last time I would play with him. I had to do it and we did it, Last year was a test run for this year. We did it. That is all that matters is that we did it.”
Owen Ameo said the knowing they would be facing Wando again in the state finals gave the team some extra motivation. He said having the chemistry with his brother that he has helped the team.
“It all paid off,” he said. “The love we have for each other, the chemistry. We might fight at home, but on this field, we take care of business. I had a silver medal in my locker (from last year’s loss) I looked at it every time before I went to practice and I told myself we aren’t losing. It was my goal to win won and we made it happen.”
Josh Ameo started the fourth quarter with his sixth goal of the game to make it 11-8 to open the final 12 minutes of play. He continued to push the pace and added another goal three minutes later.
Wando wouldn’t go away and came back with their 10 goal is the game as they relentlessly pressured the Falcons.
Letterhos got his third goal of the match with about 2:35 left to give the Falcons some much needed breathing room.
Trailing 8-6 to open the second half, Wando scored about four minutes into the third quarter. The Warriors controlled possession more in the quarter and used that to their advantage as they ran time off the clock and patiently ran their offense.
Josh Ameo gave the Falcons a goal every time things got tight scoring his fourth goal of the game with about five minutes left in the third quarter. He would add another goal three minutes later.
Wando opened the second quarter scoring to tie the match at 4-4 about 80 seconds into play. They would then take the lead about 10 seconds later after winning the face off.
Ryan Kell would get his second goal of the game to tie the match at 5-5 in the eighth minute of the second quarter.
Wando was more resilient in the second quarter, and was able to consistently attack the Falcons’ goal.
Nation Ford struggled to gain any momentum for the majority of the second quarter as Wando would grab ground balls to keep possession
When they would get possession, it was Josh Ameo who supplied the fire powers as he tied the match at 6-6 for Nation Ford. That goal sparked Nation Ford as the Falcons would rattle off two more goals from Letterhos and Owen Ameo to take an 8-6 lead with about a minute left in the half.
Nation Ford got the scoring started about two minutes into the match with a goal from Kell to open the first quarter.
Letterhos pushed the lead to 2-0 at the eight-minute mark for the Falcons, before Wando came back and scored.
Despite the score Nation Ford remained focused on the goal at hand and Josh Ameo gave them a 3-1 with about four minutes left in the first quarter.
Wando would bounce back to close the gap but Josh Ameo again would take control and score for the
Nation Ford head coach Cory Turner said this state title is something he has been working toward with the program since he was hired for the job.
“This is what it was about trying to get to this point again,” he said. “Last year was a learning experience. We set our goal high and knew if we played the right way and did the right things, we would win. Hats off to these kids. They did everything they could to make this happen. I love them to death. It is a dream season for us.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep