Patriots Top Scotland in Soccer Tourney Semifinal
Face Hoke County Thursday in the Finals
The Scotland High Fighting Scots needed a win over the Pinecrest boys’ soccer team to continue their quest for a coveted postseason playoff spot.
However, the Patriots had other ideas as they denied the visitors, posting a 3-0 victory and earning a spot against Hoke County in the Southeastern Conference tournament finals. Scotland finished their season at 7-13-2 (2-7-2).
Scotland had various scoring chances but a stingy, hard-working Pinecrest defense stepped up time after time to preserve the shutout for goalkeepers Mitchell Dotson and J.T. Stilwell. Defender Max Clare thought it was clear what the Scots’ incentive was.
“We expected Scotland to be ready to play, knowing that it could be their last game of the season,” the senior said. “We could tell that they were much more motivated under these conditions, but as a team, we were able to play our game through possessing the ball, which led to our victory.
“And, probably, knowing they would come out hard gave us some motivation of our own to play the game we needed.”
Patriot coach Todd Abbey had the same opinion as Clare, along with respect for the Scots.
“I thought we played a total team game,” Abbey said. “I think maybe some early-season results hurt Scotland, or they would be right there in the playoffs with us.”
After being tripped in the box, junior Hayden Little again put the first point on the board with a decisive penalty kick in the 13th minute. Senior Jimmy Casey gave the home team a 2-0 halftime advantage with two minutes left in the first half after Jake Harbeck somehow managed to shake three defenders and nudged the ball to Casey in front of the goal.
“Jake fought hard through all of those guys and just didn’t stop,” Casey said. “Once he was able to get the ball to me, I took a quick touch and put it in.”
With 20 minutes left in the game, speedy sophomore Rene Cruz collected the ball down the left sideline and angled a perfect 25-yard assist to the breaking Taylor Morton just in front of the goal for the third and final score.
Positions and roles changed with midfielder Richard Palmer unavailable because of injury, allowing Casey to fill in and direct traffic. Center back Nick Kruyer left the game in the final minutes after taking a hard hit, letting another mid fielder, Barrett Goulden, move back to defense, a spot he’s also comfortable playing.
“It’s always pretty nice to play different positions, and I don’t mind playing defense,” said Goulden. “As a team, we will play where we need to play. It gives us different looks and helps prepare us for the next game.”
Scotland head coach Colin McDavid had nothing but praise for Pinecrest — and his own team.
“It never gets any easier playing here (Pinecrest), but my boys are disciplined. They tried their best and gave it a good run,” he observed. “They don’t play soccer year-round, but I’m very impressed with what they’ve accomplished in the last couple of months. We gave it a good run, but it’s tough to lose.
“Pinecrest is on another level of soccer, and they always have good teams. But Coach Abbey has brought another dimension in the last couple of years that I like, and I love to watch them play when I’m not coaching against them.”
Both coaches pointed to the control employed by the Scots, with Abbey adding: “They are starting to play more disciplined and passing the ball much better than years before. They have a bright future.”
The Patriots will meet Hoke County (14-8-2, 6-3-1) in the tournament finale on Thursday night at the John Williams Athletic Complex and have beaten the Bucks in two previous outings, 2-1 and 4-0. Following two early-season losses, Pinecrest has accumulated 84 goals while holding opponents to only 12.
But Pinecrest, who stands at 17-2-2 overall, is not underestimating Hoke County.
“We know we need to play hard,” Jimmy Casey said. “There is always motivation for Hoke County — there is always something to prove.”
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