The Clover High School boys’ soccer team fell 5-0 to Dutch Fork in the second round of AAAA playoffs.
Dutch Fork scored seconds before intermission, when keeper Robert Schreiner mistimed a boot that would have sent the ball sailing up field, far from Clover’s goal.
Instead, the ball floated into the Clover net, to the surprise of the players, coaches and spectators.
“It was a freak whiff from a very, very strong keeper,” CHS head coach Graham Stafford said. “It was just a freak goal.”
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Stafford said the Blue Eagles began the second half with a positive mindset.
“Their second goal was another freak play off of a loose pass,” Stafford said. “This game can be so cruel at times.”
Clinging to a 3-0 lead for much of the second half, the Silver Foxes scored two goals down the final stretch to seal the win.
Despite the playoff loss before a huge crowd of Blue Eagle supporters, Stafford lauded the players for exceeding expectations.
“I am really proud of the season, really, really proud of the boys,” he said. “We had a good account of ourselves. We’ve had a great season; the program is really strong.”
In the regular-season finale, the Blue Eagle team survived a 1-0 nail-biter for region supremacy.
“It was nice to have the region decided with Nation Ford here,” said Stafford.
Next came a 5-1 home win over Wade Hampton in the opening round of the playoffs.
“The kids played well,” Stafford said. “We created chances and executed. Any win in the playoffs builds momentum.”
Added Stafford: “There’s a big buzz in the community about Clover boys’ soccer, but we know it can be taken away in a heartbeat.”
Stafford said he believes high school soccer is on the rise. “There is good soccer in York County and the Upstate,” he said.
Stafford also paid tribute to the senior team members. “Our six seniors have been tremendous for us all four years, especially the last two since I’ve been here,” he said.
Though he was pleased with the soccer team’s season, Stafford predicts the best is yet to come. “We’ve shown people we can compete with the best teams out there,” he said. “We’ll come back bigger and stronger next year.”