Catawba Ridge’s Caden Tull waits for the ball to approach before he scores the match’s lone goal as Fort Mill’s Matt Jeranek plays defense. Photo by Rob Upton

Catawba Ridge defeated visiting rival Fort Mill 1-0 Friday night, thanks to a late 77th minute own goal.

Copperheads sophomore Caden Tull burst into the Yellow Jackets box with just three minutes left to play, and his shot deflected off a Fort Mill defender before rolling into the back of the net for the game’s lone goal.

The game had been on a knife-edge for most of the 80 minutes, but the Copperheads showed more fire in the second half and made their pressure pay at the right moment.

“It was good effort on our part,” said Catawba Ridge head coach Phillip McCarter. “The second half was much stronger for us, and we worked harder.”

With the home win, Catawba Ridge, now 6-0-2, remains undefeated on the season. They’ll play another crosstown rival next week when they travel to Nation Fort Wednesday.  

Meanwhile, Fort Mill drops to 2-3-3 on the season. The Yellow Jackets next face road trips to Blythewood March 15 and Rock Hill March 19 based on their schedule.

The visitors earned the lion’s share of possession in the first half, forcing Copperheads’ keeper Andrew Reinhardt into action early. In the 23rd minute, Yellow Jackets’ striker Luke McCoy lashed a volley from 18-yards out that Reinhardt did well to parry away.

“We had a lot of chances,” said Fort Mill head coach Mark Seren. “(Reinhardt) had a phenomenal game to keep them in it in the first half.”

McCarter said he switched up his team’s formation at halftime to facilitate a second forward. He said this, plus a commitment to outwork Fort Mill, were two key differences to turning the tide.

Copperheads’ junior midfielder Derek Ringnalda was unlucky not to hit the target just seven minutes into the second half with his stinging shot from 12-yards out. And senior midfielder Dylan Dority missed a golden opportunity from about the same spot just minutes later when he was played into space, but Dority skied his shot over the bar.

It was against the run of play, when Fort Mill had been creeping back into the offensive phase, that Catawba Ridge was able to find the right moment to strike.

Tull raced down the left wing against his marker, found his way into the penalty box, and put a shot out, which eventually found its way past the Fort Mill goalkeeper via a deflection from an acute angle.

“It’s a learning experience,” Seren said. “We’ll work with it, learn from our mistakes, and be better prepared for the next game.”

Catawba Ridge won an earlier matchup between the two teams, coming out 2-1 victors Feb. 21. Fort Mill and Catawba Ridge are scheduled to meet one last time this season on April 26.

McCarter said his team is fully focused on translating its good fortune to region play. Following the upcoming game against Nation Ford, the Copperheads will play South Pointe on the road March 12. McCarter said the team’s first region game will be very important, and could be a big factor in the two teams’ seasons.

“I never thought we’d be at this point in the start of the season,” he said. “We want to keep it going. We see (South Pointe) as the top competitor in the region, so our focus is on that.”