Will Tommie’s hat trick helped Emerald overcome a red card in the first half to knock South Pointe out of the 3A boys’ soccer playoffs with a 4-0 win Tuesday night in Rock Hill.
The sides were tied 0-0 at the intermission, but visiting Emerald (14-8) was playing with just 10 after one of its players saw a straight red card for foul language. The uninformed fan would have hardly known who had the personnel advantage; the Vikings were supremely organized in the second half and leaned on Tommie’s set-piece ability to blow the game open.
“When you go a man down, it’s important to make sure the critical spaces are filled,” said Emerald assistant coach Gary Winchester, his Scottish lilt pouring through. “Quite honestly, they have got five or six of the most dynamic players I have seen and we knew coming into this that it was gonna be difficult, and with 10 men it was even harder. But it comes down to heart, and the boys, we challenged them and they responded well.”
It was a salty end to a fine season of 3A soccer for South Pointe (15-7). The Stallions went 10-0 in Region 3-3A, but they struggled Tuesday night against a well-coached side.
“You’ve got to hand it to Emerald; they played a man down and they played great,” said South Pointe coach David Parnell, who is leaving to take a job in Florida. “Like I told the guys, you’re gonna have nights like this and you’re gonna run into a buzz-saw.”
The first half was the most eventful first half, but it yielded no goal. Emerald nearly broke the deadlock five minutes in, firing three shots on South Pointe’s goal in succession, the middle of the three clattering off the crossbar from close range.
By the 10-minute mark South Pointe had a 2-1 woodwork advantage over the visitors. Stallions midfielder Ely Younce nodded a long ball onto the foot of the left post, before Gaib Schoenfuss thumped a header off the bar with the keeper rooted to his spot.
The occasion spiced up in the 17th minute when an Emerald player was sent off for foul language directed toward a teammate. Then a gaggle of parents from both sides traded verbal volleys on the sidelines, forcing security to shepherd the home fans back toward their end of the field.
The Stallions poured pressure on the 10-men Vikings, with Caiden Schoenfuss testing Emerald keeper Ethan VonSeelen with a low drive that he parried away, before Shykwon McCullough narrowly missed opening the scoring for the home team. He raced on to the end of a long, diagonal ball into the box and lobbed a half-volley over VonSeelen that nestled on the roof of the net.
Emerald made the Stallions rue those wasted chances with a clinical second half.
As Winchester explained, the Vikings compressed, gumming up the space in South Pointe’s offensive final third and generally making everything difficult. At the other end, Emerald took advantage of the Stallions’ increasing frustration by drawing free kicks and, thanks to Tommie’s left peg, scoring them.
He opened his account 11 minutes into the second half, slamming home a penalty after a studs-up tackle from a South Pointe defender.
Six minutes later it was 2-0. South Pointe keeper Ryan Lowery could only push Tommie’s fierce 30-yard effort into the top corner of the net, and Emerald’s star guy bagged his hat-trick three minutes later. Tommie was hacked down in the right channel, picked himself up, dusted off, and curled a low free kick into the far corner for a 3-0 lead.
There was still time for VonSeelen to save Payton Marion’s penalty kick and Emerald’s Sam Moore to nick in between a South Pointe defender and keeper to spruce up the score with a late fourth.
It was a disappointing end for the Stallions, especially Marion, the standout senior midfielder who sat on the ground removed from the team with his jersey pulled over his head.
“Peyton Marion, he’s the passion and the heart and soul,” said Parnell, seated on the team’s half-covered bench afterward. “To go out a senior with a loss like this is probably the hardest on him.”
Parnell took a longer view of his own ending.
“To end a career as a coach almost 20 years in, I couldn’t ask for any better facility and staff,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure, it’s been fun.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T