The Dreher Blue Devils boys soccer team enters the 3A playoffs as a No. 1 seed following a Region 5- 3A title, its first since 2008. Current Dreher head coach Byron Quinatoa was a player on that 2008 squad and wants to return the Blue Devils to what they were during that era.
Quinatoa joined the Dreher soccer program as a freshman in 2006. He was the only freshman to earn playing time for head coach Richard Rowell. He started out as a forward, later moving to center midfield. Quinatoa’s first season as a Blue Devil would be quite the introduction to varsity soccer as Dreher made it to the 3A state championship game, losing to Eastside.
“We had a lot of good players at Dreher,” Quinatoa said. “ We knew the team was going to be good, but we didn’t know we would be that good. We had 26 wins, over 120 goals. We had threats all around.”
Quinatoa’s freshman season kicked off a three-year run when Dreher went undefeated against region foes, winning the region title each year. The region included teams like A.C. Flora, Brookland-Cayce, and Chapin.
Following his time as a Blue Devil in 2009, Quinatoa didn’t think about coaching until 2015 when head coach Clark McCarthy approached him about joining his staff.
Initially, Quinatoa believed he would only coach for a year. He didn’t.
McCarthy left Dreher after the 2016 season.
His replacement was a familiar face for Quinatoa, former A.C. Flora coach Jamie McClendon. The two had known each other since Quinatoa played for the Blue Devils.
“Number four (Quintoa) hit a brilliant shot from about 35 yards away. I mean, we couldn’t do anything about that.” McClendon told The Columbia Star’s Mike Maddock in 2007 following a 1-0 Dreher win over the Falcons.
It was that familiarity and a shared vision for the Dreher program that helped the coaches work together, despite the rivalry.
“Clark started the foundation for the program. Then Jamie made such a huge impact and built off what Clark started,” Quinatoa said. “He knew what kind of player I was. He thought it was good to have former players wanting to help out. He’s more of a defensive mind. I like to be more attacking. It worked out well.”
McClendon’s first two teams kept knocking on the door. His 2017 team finished 12-8 and made it to the 4A Upper State finals, losing to Chapin.
The 2018 Blue Devils went 11-11-1 and fell to A.C. Flora in the 4A quarterfinals.
Then came the 2019 season.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Quinatoa said. “We knew we had a chance to get past the first two rounds.”
The team was built around a pair of senior midfielders in Pierce Myrick and Jonnie Morgan.
Dreher raced to a 10-2 start before losing to A.C. Flora and Chapin. A fourgame winning streak righted the ship, before the Blue Devils fell to the Falcons again on April 10. That would be the last time Dreher would lose. One of the highlights of the ensuing seven-game winning streak was a second round tilt with North Augusta. Over the course of the game, the Yellow Jackets were the more aggressive offensive team, outshooting the Blue Devils by a significant margin.
However, the game was tied at halftime, and the Blue Devils scored twice in the second half to win 3-1 and advance to 4A quarterfinals.
A 2-1 win over Myrtle Beach and a 1-nil win over Bluffton sent Dreher to its first state championship game in 13 years. The opponent was the Eastside Eagles once again, a perennial state title contender.
It was an exciting time for the Blue Devils. However, Quinatoa wouldn’t be around for the entire celebration. He had to miss the championship game because of a trip to Ecuador to visit his family.
While he was unable to watch the game in person, Quinatoa did follow how his team was doing.
Eastside got on the board first with a goal from Mario Figueroa in the 36th minute.
The Blue Devils answered in the 57th minute when Myrick blasted a corner kick across the box, finding Morgan’s head for the tying goal.
That was it for scoring for the remainder of regulation, two 10-minute overtimes, and two five-minute “golden goal” sudden death overtimes.
The state championship game came down to corner kicks. Myrick, Patrick Reaser, and Steffan Dreesen made theirs to keep pace with Eastside.
Then it was up to senior forward John Platanis. He ripped a shot to the left corner of the net to give Dreher the win and the 4A State Championship.
“I was jumping up and down with my family,” Quinatoa said. “I was excited for them. I didn’t get to have that moment as a player. I didn’t get to enjoy that moment with the players. I hope I’m able to change that.”
Dreher finished the season on top with a 21-5 overall record.
Then came changes.
The 2020 season came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
McClendon left following the 2021 season, leaving the Blue Devils looking for a new direction.
“I knew Jamie was talking about leaving. He lives in Chapin. He had to commute back and forth every day for a few years,” Quinatoa said. “He presented the idea to (Dreher athletic director Daryl) Jarvis about me being the head coach. At the time, the rule was you had to work at the school to be a coach. COVID created a teacher and coach shortage, and Coach Jarvis gave me an opportunity.”
Quinatoa accepted the job and made it his mission to put all his efforts into the program. It isn’t just about what the team is able to accomplish on the pitch, he’s trying to generate interest for the program as well. He runs the team’s social media pages.
He also helped host the Capital City tournament to generate some extra revenue for the Dreher program.
His first season, in 2022, the Blue Devils finished 10-7-1, second in Region 4-4A, and made it to the second round of the playoffs, losing to Eastside.
“My philosophy to turn Dreher into a soccer program is simple,” Quinatoa said. “Relationships come first and outcomes are second. I don’t coach every player the same because everyone is unique in their own ways. I believe by caring for my players as a person first and a player second, success will come.”
So far in 2023, he and the team have built on that foundation. The Blue Devils are 13-7. They defeated the Brookland-Cayce Bearcats for the Region 5-3A title and shut out Battery Creek 6-nil in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
While Quinatoa is still searching for more leadership on the team, some players have stepped up for Dreher, namely Dominic Reiff, Foster Fralick, and Reed Smith.
One player that Quinatoa has a particularly special connection to is his younger brother, Simon, a sophomore on the team.
“I knew he had the varsity potential out of any of the underclassman,” Quinatoa said. “I knew he might have a chance to play a little. It’s tough because everyone expects that he’ll play because his brother is the coach. I don’t play any favorites. I don’t care who you are. I look at it from a soccer aspect. Who does things well? Last year he was frustrated, but he was only a freshman. He played in two or three games. He’s grown and has become important to the team because he’s doing what I need him to do. He’s done a really good job.”
As Quinatoa grows into the head coaching roll, he has added more to the overall experience for his players. Before the region championship game against B-C, he had his players watch game film to see what was going on during the games and perhaps provide further insight to their coach’s instructions.
A region title shows how the program is moving forward. A deeper playoff run would provide some insight into what it might be capable of.
“This has to be a team effort,” Quinatoa said. “Everyone has to be on board. I’m trying to organize the attack in a certain way. We have to be patient and stick to the goal. We have to make our chances count. We have to decide if we really want to win or if we’re just happy to be here. If we stick to our plan, we’ll see some really good soccer.”
Byron Quinatoa is a class act and excellent coach! Dreher is fortunate to have him as their head coach!