AIKEN -- Some considering it kissing your sister. But Ike Ofoje has no problem with puckering up.
The USC Aiken coach watched his Pacers overcome a two-goal deficit late in regulation and then battle Augusta State to a 4-4 double-overtime tie on Wednesday.
"I can settle for a tie," said Ofoje, whose team has not defeated the Jaguars since 1994. "Usually because of our age when we get down we usually tend to quit. But today we didn't quit. We kept pushing and pushing and pushing. That's saying that I think our program has actually matured. Now the next stage will be knowing how to win."
USC Aiken (4-4-1) busted out off the gate early. Off a direct kick from Mark Turner, Ben Cawley headed in a ball that slipped through Jaguar goalie Mike Raedy's hands at 14:21.
Ten minutes later, Turner scored inside the left post to give the Pacers a 2-0 lead.
A sluggish Augusta State (4-2-2) offensive attack, though, suddenly came to life. Eddie Centurion lobbed a ball to Denny Faircloth just left of the goal. Faircloth headed it over to Ryan Marshall who kicked inside the right post to cut the lead to 2-1.
With 4:32 left in the first half, Faircloth beat Pacer goalie Brian Smoak inside the left post to knot the game at 2-all.
The Jaguars took control in the second half. Faircloth and Centurion each added goals as Augusta took a 4-2 lead into the 80th minute.
However, the Pacers got back into the game as Turner scored on a penalty kick at 80:48. Five minutes later, freshman Josh Borak shot inside the right post to tie the game.
"I think our guys realized that we could lose it," Ofoje said of his team's comeback. "I think our speed up front (helped tie the game). Richard Wolf and Josh Borak, both of them made the difference in tying the game."
In the first overtime, USC Aiken's Paul Okumu nearly knocked off the Jaguars. Okumu beat Raedy with a slow roller driving to the left side of the goal. But Augusta defender Jeremy Field raced the ball down and kicked it away before it passed the goal line.
"That's huge," Jaguar coach Ron Keller said. "There's no other way to put that. If he doesn't save that, the game's over and we all go home. That was a big save for us."
In double overtime, both teams missed chances to score. With 10 seconds left, Augusta State tried a desperation direct kick in front of the Pacers goal. But the ball rebounded off a wall of players to Faircloth whose last-gasp kick sailed wide left.
The two teams entered the game in different directions as Augusta has lost five players in the past three weeks, including leading scorer Scott Montgomery, for the year with season-ending injuries.
"I thought with the number we've got, we competed very well," Keller said. "One call here or there and it's a very close game. I thought we played well, just a little unlucky with the goals we gave up."
USC Aiken is one win away from matching last year's total of five. The Pacers are gunning for its best season since 1994, when they went 10-9.
"I think a change in attitude and a change in leadership (is the reason for the turnaround)," Ofoje said. "We've brought in some players that have a good sense of maturity. I think that has made a big difference."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.
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