In the final weeks of high school sports action, Fort Mill Township had a full blown case of playoff fever. Most spring sports teams made it to the post season and some advanced impressively far. Going on into the final week, however, only three teams still had a shot at winning the state title – soccer teams from Indian Land and Nation Ford and Fort Mill High School’s baseball team.
First up was baseball and unfortunately, what seemed like a dream season in the making for the Jackets came to an end when they were swept in the title series. Fort Mill went down swinging, but the team’s strength all season long, its pitching, ran out of gas.
A week prior to that, Nation Ford showed a lot of heart in a state final loss in tennis. Observers said while the Falcons didn’t win, most of the individual matches were competitive and points could have gone either way. In other words, it was a lot closer than that scores would indicate, which is often the case in that sport.
Fort Mill’s baseball team and Nation Ford’s tennis team are no doubt disappointed, but they should be proud of the Upper State titles they won on the way to playing at State.
Then came Saturday. Both Indian Land (2A) and Fort Mill (3A) went down to Columbia confident and poised. Unfortunately, only one would come home a champion.
Up first, Indian Land fought the good fight, but was worn down by an impressive charter school, Academic Magnet. Indian Land, too, should take comfort in knowing they were the best in the Upper State this year and that getting to the state title match is an accomplishment in itself.
Immediately following the 2A match, Fort Mill took the filed against Lower State Champion Hilton Head. The No. 1-ranked Jackets, who never won a state championship in soccer before, drew first blood on a goal by senior Kevin Fielden, who scored twice in a 3-1 win that gave Fort Mill its second team state title this school year (the swim team won State last fall).
Fort Mill held the Seahawks to just five shots on goal for the game while aiming 15 at Hilton Head’s net.
Winning the S.C. title was the team’s goal all season long, Head Coach Lloyd Chalker said. The team had additional motivation. The Jackets were also playing for Clifton Carter, a teammate who lost his life last year at age 15 in an accident at home.
Was Carter an angel riding in the team’s collective hip pocket? Some say he certainly was.
Regardless, it was a perfect ending to an outstanding season for Fort Mill’s soccer team. To punctuate the moment, Fielden presented Carter’s No. 7 jersey on a hanger so it could be draped with a gold medal like the rest of the players received. That’s not only touching, but a touch of class that can only come from being around positive role models at home, school and places of worship.
Way to go, Coach Chalker and the Yellow Jackets!