There's a saying that anyone who plays goalkeeper must be crazy.
In any sport, they have to be at least a little crazy to put themselves in a position where balls, pucks or any other hard object will be fired in their direction as fast as possible...right?
"Well, I guess when it comes to some things I am," Nation Ford High School goalkeeper Carson King said about that theory.
"I just try to stay calm."
As King sits on the bleachers next to the practice field at Nation Ford, lacing his cleats and tightening his gloves, his teammates, only the second group of soccer players ever at the young school, pass by and exchange words with him as if they have been playing with him for years.
As the dimming sun peeks through the trees just before 7:30 p.m., King readies himself to stand between the posts for the next hour or two, likely batting away hundreds of shots before his next match.
What most people would see if they stopped by the practice field is a calm and collected goalkeeper doing his daily work.
What they probably wouldn't guess is that King, in his first year with the team, is only a freshman; As one of the team's youngest members, he has been instrumental in leading the Falcons into playoff position with five matches remaining.
"It's because of his maturity level - the way he carries himself," Head Coach Elton Ramey said. "People look at him and might think he is a junior or senior right away."
It may also help that King has been playing soccer since he was barely old enough to read.
"I remember being on the field when I was about 5 or 6. My parents put me in a few different sports but I liked soccer the best," King said. "I started playing goalkeeper in second grade and I really got into it."
Growing up, King played at Northside Soccer Club in elementary school, then advanced to play in the Tega Cay Soccer Club, now named the Carolina Select Soccer Club, where he met Ramey, who is also a goalkeepers coach there.
"Coach Ramey has put in a lot of work with me," King said. "He's helped me to be more aggressive, especially with breakaways, and coming out and handling crosses."
As a member of the Nation Ford team, King said he has grown into the role of starting goalkeeper this year, although at first it seemed daunting to step onto the field with a team of players, all older than himself.
"I got used to it. I began to feel like I've been playing (on the team) for a long time. I began to get to know the players and how they played," he said.
The job of a goalkeeper, along with guarding the goal, is to use his unique viewpoint away from the action, to guide his players and help them stay in position.
While King is an obvious vocal leader on the Falcons team during matches, he is quick to extend the praise to his teammates.
"It's good being a leader on the field, but our captains, Riley Johnston and Andy Barbieri, do a great job leading the team," King said. "And everyone, especially the defense, helps out in the back. They get a lot of balls stopped before they ever get to me. We all kind of work together as one unit."
When balls have made it behind the defense, King has come up big in quite a few situations throughout the season. Nation Ford has outscored its opponents by 18 goals through the first 10 matches, and King has only allowed more than two goals in a match once all year.
"The confidence of the team has risen so much by having him. The swagger that we have wouldn't be the same without him," Ramey said. "What I see in him is a keeper that needs polishing, but what's unusual is he is already so much farther along than most keepers- he has amazing potential."
Senior Brian DiMaggio, one of the leaders of the Falcons' defense, said he has also been impressed with what King has accomplished at a young age.
"He has great instincts. He's putting a lot of time in and he'll grow in four years," DiMaggio said. "He knows what he's doing though, and he's doing a great job."
King said he hopes to continue playing throughout high school, and hopefully play division one soccer in college. Although it is still a ways away, he said he is eyeing the major state schools, South Carolina and Clemson.
But for now he is focusing on the task at hand, stopping goals.
"As a goalkeeper, you do whatever you have to do," King said. "Hopefully, over the next few years, we can build this into a really great program. We'll be compared with teams like Fort Mill and Northwestern."
When Ramey walks up to the practice field every evening, and sees his players lining up to send a barrage of shots in King's direction, he thinks about the fact that he is starting a freshman goalkeeper, and he is happy about it.
"Carson helps make us a more complete team," Ramey said. "And the best part is - we have him here for three more years."