Before heading into a major match against top-ranked Northwesterm the Fort Mill boys soccer team competed in the Barry Redmond Invitational Tournament in Oak Ridge, Tenn., against 13 other top teams from Georgia and Tennessee.
The Jackets went 2-2 in four contests, each decided by one goal, finishing in sixth place overall.
"The boys played well and their level of effort was much better than before the break," Head Coach Lloyd Chalker said. "We asked for and played the most difficult schedule and beat two very good teams."
Fort Mill defeated Christian Brothers High School, from Memphis, Tenn., 1-0, and Darlington High School, from Rome, Ga., 1-0, before dropping matches to Independence High School, 2-1, and host Oak Ridge High School, 1-0, from the Knoxville area.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Tyler Vukoder, Sean Van Etten and Austin Chalker were each selected to the all-tournament team.
Then, the Jackets faced their toughest test all year.
A nearly two-week layoff didn't disrupt Northwestern's high-octane offense as the Trojans powered past Fort Mill 6-1 April 22 in a clash of York County rivals.
"We set the bar today in terms of the way we play, our passion and our intensity," Northwestern coach Dom Wren said.
Fueled by an eye-popping four goal performance from Enzo Martinez, the Trojans improved to 14-0, 7-0 in Region 3-AAAA. The Yellow fell to 10-5-1, 4-2.
The Trojans, the top-ranked team in South Carolina, in addition to holding the top spot in country according to two polls, jumped out front early following a converted penalty kick by Martinez.
In the ninth minute, the state's leading goal scorer was clipped and taken down in the box by Fort Mill defender John Whitten to earn the penalty. Martinez sent his shot to the right, and Yellow Jackets goalkeeper Sean VanEtten dove to the opposite side.
Martinez added a second score less than five minutes later off an assist from Dennis Moore, giving the Trojans a 2-0 lead 15 minutes into the game. Martinez added goals in the 63rd and 71st minute to round out his scoring. He is six goals shy of cracking the nation's career goals scored top 10 list.
Fort Mill forward Tyler Vudoker earned a penalty kick of his own in the 19th minute after being taken pulled down by Robbie Benson at the edge of the 18-yard box. Vudoker took advantage of his chance from the penalty spot and put Fort Mill on the scoreboard by tallying his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
"We're down 2-0, and we come back and get one," Fort Mill Head Coach Lloyd Chalker said. "I thought that was an important part of the game for these boys to realize they can score and know they're not done yet.
"Giving up the third goal was probably what hurt the most before halftime. Had we gone 2-1 at halftime, it would have been a different (game)."
Vudoker's goal ended the Trojans' shutout streak that last for a span of more than seven games. Chapin last scored against Northwestern on March 20.
Trailing 3-1 at the half, Fort Mill was within striking distance. At least until Dennis Moore found the back of the net for the Trojans less than two minutes into the second half. Shawn Ferguson dribbled across midfield and then slipped a pass through the Yellow Jackets' defense that found Moore, who then did the rest.
Down five goals with less than 10 minutes to play, Fort Mill continued to attack. Vudoker and Chris Landvik-Larsen each had a pair of promising shots that sailed inches wide in the waning minutes at Bob Jones Stadium.