Fort Mill striker Austin Cassidy said he was feeling “spry,” after Tuesday night’s boys’ soccer match against South Pointe.
Would hate to see him feeling sprightly.
The senior scored four goals, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 4-0 win over the host Stallions that tightens their grip on second place in the region behind Northwestern (head-to-head tiebreaker).
Fort Mill (16-3-1, 10-1 Region 3-AAAA) played in the Palmetto Cup last week during spring break, an experience that kept Lloyd Chalker’s team fit and sharp. That showed Tuesday night on a greasy, narrow pitch.
“We stayed active,” said Chalker, whose team played four games in the Midlands, including a 4-1 loss to Farragut (Tenn.), one of the top-ranked teams in the country. “That really helped us tonight. The field we played on was very similar to this one tonight.”
Cassidy will take the plaudits for bagging all four goals, but it was a substantial team effort from the Yellow Jackets. Defensively, they shut out an offensively dangerous Stallions team, squelching the threat posed by the hosts’ midfield and striker Josh Reid. Seniors Kevin Brown and Calvin Blaschke were stout at the back, especially in limiting the danger of Reid’s pace.
“Me and K.B. (Brown), my other centerback, someone has to always be covering in behind,” said Blaschke. “That was basically how we handled it defensively.”
Fort Mill goalie Randall Phillips was rarely tested as the Stallions struggled to kick out of neutral. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, were ruthless from the earliest moments. Jonathan Cutrone slid a nice ball into Cassidy’s forward run, and the striker coolly rounded South Pointe keeper Ricky Blackman and passed the ball into a yawning net to make it 1-0 with seven minutes elapsed.
“Austin was hungry tonight, for sure,” said Chalker.
“I was ready to go,” said Cassidy, grinning. “And we went.”
With 13 minutes played, South Pointe (8-4, 7-4) nearly equalized in similar fashion. Senior midfielder Luke Snider bombed a diagonal ball into Will Brannon’s path and the wide player took it around Phillips, before his cross was blocked out for a corner kick.
There weren’t many more chances in the half, but Fort Mill doubled its lead early in the second half, Cassidy pillaging his second goal. He received the ball on the right wing, cut across the top of the 18-yard box and fired in a low, left-footed effort at the near post that beat Blackman to make it 2-0.
The timing of Fort Mill’s second was deflating for the Stallions. Chalker’s outfit had numerous chances to score a third and fourth goal over a 10-minute span, as South Pointe pushed up in an effort to halve the deficit. Blackman denied Zach Lundy, Cassidy and especially Cutrone, who was in one-on-one with the keeper before firing into his belly.
The warnings kept coming. With 13 minutes left, Fort Mill midfielder Hunter Stricklin was first to a long throw into the South Pointe box, only to thump a first-timed effort off the cross bar. But with seven minutes to play, Fort Mill killed off the contest. A blocked shot sat up for Cassidy and he rifled in from a full 25 yards for his hat-trick.
“I just had to take the strike,” he said. “I saw it, hit it.”
There was still plenty of time for the senior to nick a fourth, after he ran in on the South Pointe goal, and again rounded Blackman to finish into an empty net.
“That was probably the best we played all year,” said Chalker. “Good time of year to be coming into good form. The boys did really well.”
Fort Mill’s players might have preferred spending a week refining their tans or bobbing in the ocean, but the Palmetto Cup kept them sharp – ahem, spry – headed into the stretch run.
“I may have liked to be chilling, but we were still on a ball, we had our touches,” said Blaschke. “It was good to come on fresh from playing games.”