Soccer ball

With 15 minutes to play, Josh Mackie finally got his opportunity. He broke free crossing the box, pivoted around to face the goal and took his shot.

It found nothing but a defender’s foot.

The Socastee boys soccer team had its perfect microcosm for a disappointing, season-ending loss. Dutch Fork eliminated the Braves for the second straight season on their own field with a 4-1 victory in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Yes, Socastee prevented the shutout with a late Jahmar Watson goal, but Dutch Fork clearly took the Braves out of their element.

“They defended at a high quality back there,” Mackie said. “They kept the pressure on us constantly so it would be difficult. We just kept playing the long ball and they were winning it and would get possession in the midfield. Their pressure was disrupting our rhythm.”

Mackie, the Wofford signee who entered the night with 43 goals, including a hat trick in a second-round win over Cane Bay, could never find the slivers he has most of the season. He was limited to the late Watson assist.

However, this was a total shutdown of a Socastee offense that averaged five goals per contest through their first 25 games. 

The Braves weren't able to create space around the goal despite a few early possessions near it. They also struggled on 50-50 balls.

“From everything I saw on film and the scouting reports I got, they played better defense than I saw and I had heard they can play,” Socastee coach Byron Owen said. “They did a great job against our height. Normally, we’re the ones who win everything in the air.

“I think they just manned up, found a way to get it when it counted the most.”

Of course, some early Silver Fox offense didn’t hurt any of that, either.

Dutch Fork got on the board first just seven minutes into the game when Paul Collins tapped in Dylan Collins throw-in. Twenty minutes after that, Collins connected on a free kick after a Sani Aliyu foul (which drew a yellow card).

Damon Williams then added two second-half goals of his own — one 13 minutes into the second half and another with just five to go. Although Owen contends Dutch Fork’s defense played better than it had, it clearly hadn’t struggled in that department previously.

The Region V-5A champs have won nine straight games since their only defeat of the season — an overtime loss against Lexington on March 19. In the playoffs alone, Dutch Fork has now defeated West Florence, James Island and Socastee by a total score of 11-1. It has also eliminated the Braves by a three-goal margin in back-to-back years and will head to Wando for the Class 5A lower state championship on Tuesday.

For Socastee, the Braves will be left with the knowledge that they missed out on their fifth lower state appearance since 2005. Four players — Mackie, Watson, goalie John Cetin and defender Jahmier Watson — will each play in the the state’s two all-star games. That won’t be much consolation for the end of this playoff run.

“They were better than us, no matter what,” Owen said. “They played better and executed better. Really, I think we were capable of going all the way. But today, [Dutch Fork] played better than we did. I don’t know if we played them again in two days, it would be different. That’s hypothetical. But they beat us.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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