Head coach Kenny Halas has preached all season long that pressure creates opportunities for his Nation Ford boys’ soccer team.
The Falcons pressed hard during Monday night’s first-round playoff game against Northwestern High, and Nation Ford rolled to victory. Luke Marin and Adrian Garthaus both scored twice, and Patrick Bramlett added another goal to lead the Falcons, who improved to 14-7-1, to a convincing 5-0 win over the visiting Trojans in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament.
Nation Ford will next host T.L. Hanna Wednesday night in the second round of the playoffs. T.L. Hanna defeated Wade Hampton 4-1 on Monday night in their first-round matchup.
The Yellow Jackets from Anderson finished in second place in Region 1 and have a 13-11-1 overall record.
“This one started with a lot of pressure,” Halas said. “The heat, plus the pressure, it really helped us have a quality game. Guys executed what we trained on this week. It was bang, bang, bang.”
Halas said he wanted his team to win the period of time between the 15th and the 25th minute mark.
Nation Ford wasted no time throwing its weight around in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
Senior Noah Lloyd earned a 10th minute penalty kick when he got tripped in the Northwestern penalty area trying to recover a pass. Marin stepped up to take the kick and did well to beat Northwestern keeper Ben Acus at the near post.
Marin made it 2-0 just 10 minutes later. The midfielder chased down what looked like a lost cause from a throw-in and unleashed a 30-yard rocket that flew into the top corner.
The Falcons tacked on a third goal when Garthaus whipped in an in-swinging corner from the far side, which Acus couldn’t keep out.
“I thought we executed really well,” Marin said. “We stuck to the game plan and that’s what happens. We’ve got really high expectations. I think really highly of our team.”
Nation Ford wasn’t finished after the halftime break. Bramlett made a winding run from the right wing into the middle of the field and hit a hard left-footed missile into the net to make it 4-0 in the 48th minute.
And Garthaus notched his second goal of the day in the 61st minute with a long run. Following a botched Northwestern set piece, the ball popped out to Garthaus, who ran about 40 yards on his own before coolly slotting the ball past the Trojans’ keeper and into the waiting net to give Nation Ford a 5-0 lead.
Halas said he didn’t know too much about the team’s upcoming opponents, but said his Falcons would rest up quickly and generate a game plan ahead of Wednesday’s home match.
“I’m sure it’s gonna be a dogfight,” he said. “We’re gonna rest up, recovery quickly and get back into training tomorrow.”
In other local 5A playoff action, Fort Mill fell 5-0 to Blythewood on the road in their first-round match ending their season at 7-11-1.