The CFSH Varsity Boys Soccer team endured a tough crowd, questionable officiating, and the difficulties of playing 9v9 on a full size pitch for 50 of the 80 minutes on Tuesday night at North Myrtle Beach- all to come back to Carolina Forest with a 4-1 victory. The Panthers now ride a 4 match win streak into the first round of the playoffs next week.
The Panthers did their best to silence a passionate senior night crowd at North Myrtle when Junior Josh Murphy scored his first goal of the season off an early set piece in the 4th minute- after a deflection he calmly headed the ball into the back of the net for the early 1-0 lead. Relentless counter attacking led to an additional Panther goal in the 18th minute when keeper Trevor Lavalee made a great save and launched a quick outlet throw to Ethan Hillman down the visitor sideline (where both team benches are located at NMB). Ethan took a quick touch to get some space and then played a long ball over the top to Junior Cole Poirier. Poirier got behind the NMB defenders and sent a rocket into the net for a 2-0 Panther lead. This margin was short lived however as North Myrtle was able to convert from the run of play in the 21st minute to make the score 2-1.
The sun had set by this point, the lights were on, and the temperature cooled substantially leading many of the faithful Panther fans to don jackets on this late April evening- but things were getting more heated on the pitch. In the 35th minute Sophomore defender Joseph Powalie played a ball into the box area from midfield- he survived a strong challenge that did not draw a call from the referee. As play continued in the box with the center official and AR watching there, the NMB player who slid into Powalie jumped up and pushed Joseph hard, then continued pushing. As both sideline benches yelled to the ref to stop play, the NMB player took a swing at Powalie. The aftermath of the ensuing scuffle was a total of 4 straight red cards- 2 for each side; meaning both teams would have to go the rest of the way with only 9 players.
The forced tactical switch led both coaches into deploying predominantly a 4-3-1 formation. This suited the Panthers well since most goals this season have come from a potent counter-attacking combination of long balls over the top and Panther speed at the forward positions. Most of the 2nd half was spent sitting back on both sides and launching these counter attacks. Sophomore Ethan Hillman was pressed into emergency keeper duty in the 2nd half when Lavalee was injured and could not continue. Hillman played excellent in this unexpected role, and the Panthers had numerous chances on the counter. This finally paid off when Junior Jackson Dilday dispossessed an NMB forward around the 18 yard line, dribbled into space and played a long ball over the top to Cole Poirier- who again outpaced the defense and found himself one on one with the keeper- who stood no chance. Poirier slotted it home for a 79th minute goal and a 3-1 cushion. Just one minute later Senior Ricky Prybeck made a great defensive play to gain possession, dribbled to mid field and played Poirier long- and in almost a similar play Poirier evaded the NMB defense to get one on one with the keeper, This time Cole dribbled calmly around a diving and flailing keeper where he could calmly dribble the ball into the net. He promptly celebrated with the other 8 Panthers on the pitch with 3 fingers in the air to recognize yet another hat trick this season for Poirier.
The Panthers will look to ride this momentum into Lexington, SC on Tuesday for the first round of the 5A playoffs, and a date with River Bluff HS. After several years of failing to make the playoffs, the Panthers are now there for the 2nd season in a row, finishing the regular season with a 7-6-2 record.