AIKEN --- South Aiken's Chris Blanton was given one job during Thursday night's Class AAA second round boys soccer state playoff game against sixth-ranked Socastee.
Blanton was charged with marking star forward Justin Watson, a Memphis signee and the Braves' top scoring threat. The South Aiken senior gave a performance that would make any shadow proud in a 2-0 victory to advance to the state quarterfinals. It was the first time Socastee had been shut out this season.
"My defense played tremendous," South Aiken goaltender Chad Christensen said. "Chris Blanton -- I've never seen him mark anyone so well. That guy's one of the best forwards in the lower state, and we didn't ever let him really get a shot on goal."
One of the top defensive performances of the year for the Thoroughbreds was complimented with a pair of second-half goals off free kicks to give them the victory.
South Aiken will advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time since winning a state title in 2005. The Thoroughbreds (17-1) will play their state quarterfinals game at home on Saturday against No. 11 Myrtle Beach (15-9).
"It was a huge confidence game for them," South Aiken head coach Paul Waters said of his team. "Our seniors have never been out of the second round."
Junior Jose Mireles scored the first goal on a rebound from a Brett Van Pelt free kick 17 minutes into the second half. Van Pelt netted the other score 10 minutes later when his free kick deflected off the goalkeeper, hit the left post and crossed the goal line near the right post for a 2-0 lead.
Van Pelt, one of 11 seniors on the team, said this win was a bit more gratifying than the 10-0 blowout victory in Tuesday's first round game. The confidence level has grown for a squad that has built a six-game winning streak since dropping its only loss of the season -- a 4-3 penalty kick defeat to rival Airport on April 21.
"With every game and every time we win, we feel like we've taken a step further," Van Pelt said.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.