Two moments of magic by Jonathan Cutrone helped Fort Mill to a 2-0 win against a stubborn Rock Hill boys’ soccer side Saturday afternoon in the Manchester Cup.
Cutrone, who is committed to Winthrop, shimmied by two Bearcats defenders along the byline to set up the Yellow Jackets’ first, then shrugged off a defender’s challenge and finished one-on-one for the result-sealing goal in the second half.
The win keeps Fort Mill near the top of the Region 3-AAAA boys’ soccer heap. The Yellow Jackets (12-2, 8-1) have a game in hand, but essentially are tied with Northwestern (11-1-2, 7-1) after the Trojans lost to South Pointe. Northwestern holds the head-to-head advantage against Chalker’s team, meaning the winner of the two teams’ rematch will have the inside track to the region title.
“We don’t have to win by a certain amount of goals and it’s at home,” said Fort Mill coach Lloyd Chalker about the May 2 rematch with the Trojans. “We just have to win. That’s what we wanted to do either way, but neither team can slip up now. We still have to play South Pointe and they’ve got a couple tough ones left.”
The first half was largely one-way traffic, Fort Mill assaulting Rock Hill’s penalty area in waves, though few clear chances resulted. Yellow Jackets striker Austin Cassidy carved out a pair of early chances, his first a deflected effort that just missed the target and the second a shot he fired wide after cutting back into the area.
Fort Mill captain Keegan Downie controlled near the top of the box but volleyed over. Cutrone then turned his man on the touchline and centered. A Rock Hill defender nearly bundled the low ball into his own net; it went for a corner instead. It was symptomatic of the Yellow Jackets’ struggle to create a decisive final ball or finish.
“It’s just a matter of better composure and focus,” said Chalker. “Rock Hill played defensively very well.”
But another nifty turn by Cutrone finally paid off, when he dribbled down the goal line and drove a low ball into the box that Mason Strohl hammered into the net for a 1-0 Fort Mill lead with barely a minute to play in the first half.
“That was serious individual skill there,” said Chalker.
The Yellow Jackets had several juicy chances to double the lead in the second half, but Cutrone didn’t waste his with about 15 minutes to play. He raced onto a long ball over the Rock Hill defense, nicked it past the last defender and finished low past the keeper for a 2-0 lead.
South Pointe 2, Indian Land 1
South Pointe completed a chest-puffing comeback against Indian Land in the other afternoon high school match. The Stallions fell behind by a goal to the Warriors, but scored twice in the second half to win 2-1.
Both teams had plenty of chances in the first half.
South Pointe keeper Ricky Blackman denied Jordan Szustwal twice in early one-on-ones, before Warrior midfielder Garrett Gerdes drove a low free kick from about 20 yards out just wide of the left post. South Pointe midfielder Peyton Marion nearly broke the deadlock with a surging run into the box, but his square pass across the goalmouth rolled harmlessly to safety for the Warriors.
Both teams made the breakthrough in the second half. Szustwal finally best Blackman when he slipped behind a high Stallion backline and toe-poked past the keeper to put the Warriors up 1-0. But South Pointe equalized with about 15 minutes left in the match, when Peyton Marion slammed home a loose ball rebound in the box. Degen then completed the turnaround when he headed in the winner off a corner kick with about a minute left.