St. Patrick and St. Stanislaus were the only Coast teams to reach the State Soccer championship games on Saturday at Clinton High School.
The Fighting Irish will face Forest in the 1A-2A-3A state finals at 11:30 a.m.. In the 4A finals, the Rockachaws will meet Florence at 3:30 p.m.
St. Patrick is playing for its first-ever state title in soccer. Mercy Cross, which merged with St. John in 2008, had won multiple state titles.
"I feel good about it," Fighting Irish coach Mario Camps said. I wasn't sure we'd be competitive because we're a young team. But the players have a lot of heart. By playing with a lot of heart, the players worked hard and do what you told them to."
Coach Ryan Joiner was brought in to restore St. Stanislaus' rich championship tradition and he quickly succeeded. The Rockachaws plan to win their sixth state crown in soccer.
"The goal was to make the soccer team competitive and back to competing for state titles," Joiner said. "I expected it to be a challenge to rebuild, but we're in the state finals. St. Stanislaus is known for building men of character and the soccer team has character. I'm pleased with how hard we worked."
Florence shutout St. Stanislaus 3-0 at the Laurel tournament three months ago, but Joiner doesn't put much stock in the loss. Players like Johnny Longo arrived from football to form a solid squad led by Owen Betz.
"We're a different team now," Joiner said. "We didn't have our football and cross country players in that game. We're looking at Florence as our next opponent. We're not looking at that game. Florence has a good team, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Camps has a simple strategy for the state finals. Clark Copponex and Stephen Alexander are the Fighting Irish's big-play scorers.
"We'll try to keep the ball in our possession and give our opponent less chances to score," Camps said. "We hope to get a quick goal. I really don't know anything about Forest. All I know is if you made to the finals, you've got a good team."