Phillip McCarter knew two years ago what was brewing with the then non-existent Catawba Ridge Copperheads boys’ soccer team.
Like a Nostradamus of soccer, McCarter knew that his team this year was going to be more than just good, but had the potential to be great. Catawba Ridge was going to be like an expansion team, so it wouldn’t make sense to be as good as they have been especially this year after the coronavirus cancelled out their inaugural season.
Despite the logic of it all, at 16-0-2 and ranked fifth in the country according to MaxPreps, the Copperheads’ head coach premonition is coming true. The biggest reason McCarter feels like they are doing so well is they act more like a family and not just a team. So, what makes the Copperheads so good on the pitch?
“They are not just great soccer players, they are great individuals,” McCarter said. “We bought into this family mentality. We are blessed to have 12 seniors. Teams that are good are always senior heavy. We have a good mix of players. We have some key juniors. Everybody knows their job. They pick everybody up. There is no in-fighting.”
Catawba Ridge finished region play with an 8-0 record after beating Indian Land Friday night and will soon enter the 4A playoffs in early May. The Copperheads have tied on two occasions this year, both against 5A schools – Clover and TL Hanna. Other than that, they have put their season on cruise control.
The Copperheads have allowed just 10 goals all season and have 11 shutouts on the season. With their 6-0 shutout win over Indian Land Friday evening, Catawba Ridge has now scored 64 goals in 18 games. Which begs the question, what is better – their offense or their defense? McCarter clearly knows.
“To be honest our defense is our strength,” he said. “The key is we are well balanced. We don’t have a hole we are trying to fill. Most teams have a hole they are trying to work around. We don’t have that. We have 11 to 15 solid players.”
Ironically, Catawba Ridge is not the only team that are ranked nationally in the top five from South Carolina. Chapin High in 5A is ranked third in the country and No. 1 in the state in all classifications, according to MaxPreps. The Copperheads are right behind them.
Catawba Ridge hasn’t had a lot of competition within Region 3-4A but have tried to schedule good 5A teams in non-region action. The Copperheads want to make sure that they have difficult games to prepare them for the playoffs.
“All of our non-region games have been solid schools,” McCarter said. “Our strength of schedule is a nine on MaxPreps, that is why we are ranked so high.”
With their region schedule being behind them, they play two 5A schools in Clover and Fort Mill coming up and a top 2A school in Andrew Jackson. They have beaten all three this year so far. It will be their third meeting with Clover this season.
“We will have two big tune-up games in 5A to get ready for playoffs,” McCarter said. “Our non-region schedule has been as tough as it could be.”
Right now, the Copperheads are undefeated, but if they lose before the playoffs, McCarter said that is ok.
“Our goal has never been to be undefeated,” he said. “Our goal is to win a state championship.”
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep