The first-half whistle blew, the Fort Mill boys soccer team kicked off against their non-region opponent Rock Hill, but the players had more than the game on their mind.
With just 14 seconds on the clock, the Yellow Jackets calmly knocked the ball out of touch. Then, they all walked off the field, took a knee, and linked arms to pay tribute to a teammate laid low by a season-ending injury.
Junior Sebastian Mitchell suffered a compound fracture in his right tibia in the second half of a road game against Dutch Fork High School Tuesday night.
The Yellow Jacket starter had broken through the Dutch Fork defense in the 55th minute, and was about to round the Dutch Fork goalkeeper in the penalty box when the two players collided. Fort Mill head coach Mark Serene said the result was a “clean break.”
About a half-hour passed before an ambulance could reach the stadium, Serene said. The coach asked his player how much pain he was in, on a scale of 1-10.
“He said, ‘I can’t go higher than 10, right?’”
The next few steps followed quickly.
Both teams came together in a huddle to pray for Mitchell. The Fort Mill and Dutch Fork coaches quickly agreed to end the game as a 1-1 tie. Serene jumped in the ambulance and rode with Mitchell to a nearby emergency room. He contacted Mitchell’s parents, who drove down to meet their son as quickly as they could, Serene said.
And that’s where Mitchell has been since Tuesday night. Serene said Mitchell is scheduled to be discharged from the hospital on Friday night.
He’ll have a Fort Mill win to celebrate when he gets home.
The Yellow Jackets, who have rallied around the hashtag #WithSeb on social media, beat Rock Hill 3-2 Friday night at Bob Jones Stadium in Fort Mill.
Sophomore Braden Gritz scored twice and sophomore Tate Adamek added a goal to put the Yellow Jackets up 3-0 at halftime. The home team held off a spirited Bearcats comeback, including second-half goals by Alex Lopez and Benji Martinez, to earn the win.
Mitchell told Gritz to score for him, according to Gritz. To his credit, Gritz only needed nine minutes to get on the scoresheet. He celebrated by lifting up his jersey to reveal a black undershirt that read “#WithSeb.”
“We left it on the field just for him,” he said. “He’s a leader on the field. The way he’d motivate us. It’s unfortunate for him to be gone, but we have to do it in his honor now. We did it for him.”
The win provides confidence for the Yellow Jackets, now 3-5-1 overall, heading into the first game of the Region 3-5A schedule. Fort Mill kicks off its region slate with an away game at Gaffney on Friday, March 18 before hosting local rival Nation Ford on Tuesday, March 22.
Adamek scored on a 28th minute corner kick, his powerful header finding the left side of the net. Gritz found his second goal of the night 10 minutes later, outrunning the goalkeeper and tucking the ball home to make it 3-0.