The first meeting between the Region 3-AAAA boys soccer teams from Northwestern and Fort Mill was a bit unusual.
Both defenses played well that night on the Yellow Jackets' home turf. There were no overtimes, but plenty of penalty kicks in regulation.
Just one-on-one, the player taking the penalty shot and the goalie. Northwestern had three. Made all of them. Fort Mill had one, same result to the back of the net. Final score: Northwestern 4-2.
The Yellow Jackets started the scoring early in the first game with a goal from Corbin Payne. Northwestern's Dennis Moore got the second of two in the second half
Just like tonight's meeting at 7 at Northwestern, the Trojans went into the match ranked No. 1 and the Yellow Jackets No. 4 by the South Carolina Soccer Coaches Association. Tonight? Expect a defensive battle and a close game.
"Our last two games are the closest we've been ranked since I've been here," Northwestern coach Dom Wren said. "That shows the parity we are developing in our region and in this part of the state.
"We always enjoy playing Fort Mill because the games are played right by two teams that respect soccer and conduct themselves well. The game will probably be close and come down to two factors. It will be either brilliance, with a player making a magic play. Or it will be decided by a mistake."
In the first meeting, Ricky Garbanzo scored all three of the Trojans' penalty-shot goals. He will be missing in action tonight. Garbanzo was chosen for a spot on the Olympic Development Team that's in England playing an exhibition schedule.
Wren said he's known Garbanzo would miss tonight's game for quite a while, but sent him off with well wishes.
"He deserves this honor," Wren said. "Ricky works hard and playing on the ODT team and playing in a foreign country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a high school player. We are proud of Ricky and hope he does well."
And there's Moore, one of the state's top players. Moore has what Wren said is a possible strained knee. He sat out last Friday's 4-0 win over York and Wren is not sure what Moore's status will be tonight.
Wren has been resting Moore so he can heal. Moore will be evaluated again tonight before the game.
Fort Mill coach Lloyd Chalker's team is intact. Payne, Jack Gantzer and David Walas are "players'' and the Yellow Jackets are a threat whenever they have the ball.
Northwestern is 16-2, 6-0 in Region 3-AAAA. Fort Mill is 14-4 and right behind in the region at 5-1. At stake is home advantage in the upcoming playoffs. That, Wren said, makes this game huge.
"The atmosphere will be great and I feel a lot of fans will be here to watch,'' he said. "The last one didn't end in a normal way, but I don't expect anything like that again. In a game like this, the mental aspect plays a tremendous part.''
What: Region 3-AAAA boys soccer
Where: Northwestern High School, field is located down the gravel road and to the left behind the school
Time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $5 at the gate
By the Numbers
Records: Fort Mill 14-4, 5-1 region; Northwestern 16-2, 6-0 region
Goals for: Fort Mill 65; Northwestern 83
Goals against: Fort Mill 24; Northwestern 22
Opponents record: Fort Mill's 127-106-14; Northwestern's 137-100-14