FORT MILL — The 2014 boys’ soccer season will kick off this week with Fort Mill and Nation Ford competing in a tournament.
Fort Mill is trying to get back to where it was two years ago when the Jackets won their first state title in the sport, while Nation Ford is also trying to hold on to some of that magic that got the Falcons to the Upper State championship last season.
Nation Ford lost to Irmo last year in the championship, derailing its Cinderella season. But getting that same magic back might not be as easy.
“We lost 11 players from last year’s team,” said Nation Ford head coach Elton Ramey. “I don’t know if we can duplicate what we had last year.”
Ramey said he feels confident that this year’s team will be strong enough to contend for the Region III title.
Ramey said he doesn’t want this year’s squad to try and live up to last year’s squad.
“We can’t try to do what we did last year,” he said. “We have to be the best we can be. I think we are going to shock some people.”
Nation Ford has three seniors on this year’s squad and will have four consistent starters back from last year and another two that were occasional starters.
The Falcons, like Fort Mill, will open the season at the Sandhills Soccer Classic Feb. 28 in Columbia.
The Jackets also will look to reload this year, as the team lost nine from last year, including five starters. But this year’s team does feature nine seniors, seven of whom were solid starters last year.
“I think we got another decent team,” said Jackets’ head coach Lloyd Chalker. “I think it comes down to us and Northwestern again (in the region).”
Chalker said he also expect Nation Ford to give Fort Mill and Northwestern a challenge for the Region III title.
And while Fort Mill doesn’t have a standout player, according to Chalker, he is looking for someone to fill that spot. He is also wondering about his offense, and how goals will come during the season.
“Scoring by committee is a good way to describe it,” he said.
Defensively, Chalker said he is confident in his keepers senior Mike Usina and junior Randall Phillips.
“We had to revamp our defense,” Chalker said. “We had to move people around and find some new people for spots.”
Fort Mill’s first home match will be March 11 against Clover and Nation Ford’s first home match will be March 12 against Blythewood.