Nation Ford’s Hunter Nickola moves around the Wando defense during the Falcons state championship game.

COLUMBIA – A fast start by the Wando Warriors gave them enough momentum to reclaim the 5A boys’ state lacrosse championship from the Nation Ford Falcons.

Wando and Nation Ford weren’t strangers to each other coming into the game having met the past two years in the same 5A state finals. Wando won in 2022. Nation Ford got revenge in 2023. Saturday was the rubber match at Irmo High School as Wando came away with a 17-7 win.

“We got off to a slow start,” said Nation Ford head coach Cory Turner. “I though we were getting back in the game at a certain point. We tried to get more aggressive with our play. They were just the better team today. We will be back next year.”

Wando started strong scoring three times in the first three and half minutes.

Despite the slow start for the Falcons, Nation Ford got on the board with a goal from Aiden Wiltkopf at the seven-minute mark in the first quarter.

The Warriors came right back with two straight goals with roughly six minutes left in the first quarter.

Wando controlled possession more than the Falcons despite their early opportunities.

The Warriors started to find another gear scoring two more goals to go up 7-1 before a Nation Ford timeout with 1:49 left in the first quarter. Wando would score one more goal before the end of the first quarter to take an 8-1 lead.

Nation Ford spent a lot of time on defense in the opening quarter, which didn’t allow their offense to find any rhythm. The Falcons struck first as Hunter Nickola scored a couple minutes into the second quarter. Nickola and Wando traded goals again about midway through the second quarter.

Nation Ford’s Josh Ameo finally got space to score after being doubled and tripled team as he found the back of the net with 3:20 left in the first half. The goal was his 200th career goal.

Wando remained strong as the second half started as they took their time and was able to continue to penetrate the Falcons’ defense scoring about three minutes into the third quarter.

The Falcons’ Trevor Keaton scored for Nation Ford about 10 seconds later to keep the Falcons with a puncher’s chance.

Emotions started getting about as hot as the Columbia heat for both teams, but it really showed for the Falcons. With about eight minutes left in the third quarter, several players got penalties for both teams. Both teams went down two players each for the next couple minutes.

As the intensity and physicality picked up, Wando was able to handle it best extending their lead to 12-5 with a minute left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Wando scored and Nickola scored his third goal as the teams traded goals, but the Falcons were unable to make any headway. Nation Ford continued to try and find ways to chip away at Wando, but didn’t have the scoring opportunities they normally do. Wando on the other hand continued to add to their lead before closing out the game.

Nation Ford’s Will Alvarado was able to score at the final buzzer to make the deficit 10 goals. Nation Ford finished the season 13-7 overall.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Nation Ford’s Josh Ameo fires a shot during the 5A state championship game against Wando on Saturday at Irmo High School.