High school soccer: South boys preview 2019
Coach: Russ Fisher (2nd year, 6-14-3)
Key returners: Goalkeeper Parker Anderson, midfielder/striker Harrison Ward
2018 record: 6-14-3 overall, 4-13-1 2A Central Carolina Conference (8th out of 10)
By Mike London
LANDIS— In a county where there are a number of famines as far as boys soccer teams qualifying for the state playoffs, South Rowan has experienced the longest dry spell.
South hasn’t ventured to the state playoffs since 1993.
Can the Raiders do something about that this year?
Well, there’s a decent chance they can. South has loads of experience and has added several talented freshmen.
The Raiders may have enough strength to turn some of last season’s near-misses into close victories in the competitive environment of the 10-team Central Carolina Conference, which put five teams in the 2A playoffs last season. One of those five, of course, was Salisbury, a Final Four team.
“Last season, we tied Salisbury, and they came close to winning the state championship,” South coach Russ Fisher said. “We played some good matches, some tough matches last season. Now we’ve got more maturity and a better understanding of team concepts. We’ve got 10 starters returning and expect to have a very competitive team.”
Fisher isn’t part of the South faculty. He works in Charlotte, but he has close ties to the county as a former East Rowan (and club) player. He took the reins of the program last fall after Kyle Neal’s departure and is working hard to teach the right lessons off the field as well as on it.
“I tell the guys there’s a reason that student comes first in student-athlete,” Fisher said. “We’ve got some talented guys who are drawing some interest from colleges, but they’re only going to get those opportunities if they make good decisions and do a good job in the classroom.”
South has two of its three all-county players returning in goalkeeper Parker Anderson and Harrison Ward.
“Parker had 220-plus saves and should really shine for us this year, while Harrison had seven or eight goals,” Fisher said.
Ward also had three assists in South’s 5-5 tie with East Rowan.
Fisher expects a lot of production this season from center midfielder Tony Zempoaltecatl, who answers to “Tony Z.” He’s defensive-minded, but he had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 CCC win against East Davidson.
Cameron Phillips will be a defensive anchor in the back.
“He’s very fast, very well-conditioned,” Fisher said. “He’s one of those kids who can run for 80 minutes.”
Logan Carter, who had goals in wins against Carson and East Davidson, is a proven player, along with Daniel Trejo, a seasoned, tough defender.
Another experienced midfielder is Dalton Baxter.
“He’s explosive and wins a lot of balls in the air,” Fisher said.
South tied Rowan opponents East, West and Salisbury last season. In the CCC, South swept East Davidson and split with West Davidson and Oak Grove. The non-conference wins came against Carson and First Assembly.
MaxPreps ranked South 72nd out of 113 2A teams, but the Raiders may be able to move up substantially this season with the addition of two outstanding freshmen.
Fisher is excited about young midfielders Zander Efird and Ozzie Pulido.
“They’re guys with a high soccer I.Q.,” Fisher said. “Efird is from a soccer family. Pulido has a big shot.”
Fisher believes soccer is on the upswing in Rowan County. South has good youngsters pushing the veterans and should have a solid jayvee team.
Fisher said he hopes that the county tournament, a major event not long ago, can be reinstated after the next realignment — or at least a county jamboree involving all the teams.
South opens the season against Carson on Aug. 19 and begins the 18-game CCC grind on Aug. 28 at East Davidson.
South’s 11 seniors will wrap up the regular season at home with a Senior Night contest against Salisbury.
Maybe this time there will be playoff games for the Raiders following Senior Night.
Notes: Fisher is optimistic that Eber Tapia, South’s leading scorer in 2018, will be eligible to play. He’s a difference-maker.