GREENVILLE — Falcons going to Upper State by shocking Patriots
Forget about March Madness, try May Madness!
The Nation Ford Falcons boy’s soccer team upset JL Mann 3-2 in the third round of the 4A state playoffs Saturday.
The win puts Nation Ford in the Upper State championship Tuesday where it will face Columbia juggernaut Irmo.
On paper it was a story of David and Goliath.
JL Mann, the defending state 4A champions, was ranked second in the state and seventh in the Southern region of the country, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association.
Nation Ford soccer was on a historic run getting to the third round for the first time in school history and trying to prove itself as the new kid on the block.
Coming off its first two playoff wins ever, Nation Ford, ranked 12th in the state, knew it had its toughest challenge ahead of it for the season.
Head coach Elton Ramey was speechless after the game, but the beaming smile on his face said enough.
“This is awesome,” he said. “They played amazing. This is a huge upset. We kept our composure and were able to do it. This was a complete team win.”
Trailing 2-0 at the half, JL Mann went after Nation Ford.
Just over two minutes into the second half, Patriots’ junior Keaton Hinze outraced a Falcons defender and scorched a shot past Nation Ford keeper senior Josh Bruckner for a JL Mann goal.
Nation Ford kept its two goal advantage, scoring nine minutes later when sophomore Caleb Brukner scored off a rebound during a corner kick.
The jubilee was short lived by the Falcons, as Hinze scored on a header just 45 seconds later making it 3-2.
JL Mann controlled the ball more in the second half and forced Nation Ford’s defense to make adjustments and play more alert.
The Patriots tried to use several breakaways to catch Nation Ford off guard, but Bruckner was on full alert and adjusted each time.
Ramey said it’s what they practice for.
“The way we work in practice and how these guys push each other has brought us to a new level,” he said.
With about eight minutes left, Bruckner and Patriots’ senior captain Nicky Watson collided in the box causing both sidelines to take notice and the clock to stop. Watson, who is committed to attend Niagara University, was the leading scorer for JL Mann with 34 goals on the year. Watson came out for a bit, while Bruckner stayed in and shake it off.
Afterwards, the Patriots went into panic mode trying to do everything it could to tie the game, but could never muster anything.
The first half showed that the Patriots weren’t ready for Nation Ford, and as Ramey felt, took them lightly.
Nation Ford senior Austin Huddy scored just 73 seconds into the game catching almost everybody at Patriots Stadium off guard, including JL Mann sophomore keeper Aden Ardoin.
Later in the first half, Huddy again outhustled two JL Mann defenders to slide one past Ardoin.
Nation Ford 3, JL Mann 2
Nation Ford 2 1 – 3
JL Mann 0 2 – 2
NF – Austin Huddy, 1:13
NF – Huddy, 13:33
JLM – Keaton Hinze, 43:15
NF – Caleb Bruckner, 49:12
JLM – Hinze, 49:57
Shots on goal: Nation Ford 7, JL Mann 7.
Saves: Josh Bruckner 5 (NF), Aden Ardoin 4 (JLM).
Corner kicks: Nation Ford 4, JL Mann 6.
Records: Nation Ford 14-5-1, JL Mann 19-2-0.