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High school boys soccer: South tries to replace standouts

Fourth in a series of reports on Rowan soccer teams …


Coach: Russ Fisher (3rd year, 15-23-3)

Key returners: Jordi Cortez, Zander Efird

Key additions: Ozzy Pulido, Jeremy Beatley

2019 record: 13-11 overall, 9-9 Central Carolina Conference (6th)

MaxPreps rankings: 39th in 2A out of 115. No. 194 in NC out of 538.

Playoffs: Lost to Surry Central 1-0 in the first round

2021 record: 1-2


By Mike London

LANDIS — South Rowan’s boys soccer team enjoyed a history-making season the last time the Raiders were on the pitch in the fall of 2019.

South broke even at 9-9 in a 10-team Central Carolina Conference that provided enough strength of schedule that the Raiders made the 2A playoffs despite finishing sixth.  South cheerfully ended one of the state’s longest playoff droughts, making an appearance in the postseason bracket for the first time since 1993. A first-round loss ensued, but it was a 1-0 match, hard-fought and well-played.

Now coach Russ Fisher, a former East Rowan and club player, and the Raiders try to build on the success of 2019. They’re in an unusual position. They lost a huge group of seniors, but they still have five returning starters and can put eight seniors on the field.

South has enjoyed  three straight deep soccer classes — the classes of 2019, 2020 and 2021 — so compared to some of the squads in the county, this is a team with decent experience.

But there will be challenges.

The big guns are gone, stalwarts such as goalkeeping wizard Parker Anderson and striker Eber Tapia, who accounted for 24 of South’s 70 goals. Also missing from the roster are familiar names such as Daniel Trejo, Dalton Baxter, Logan Carter and Harrison Ward. Baxter and Ward scored seven goals each in 2019.

“We lost guys, really key guys, but we believed we’ve replaced them,” Fisher said. “We had a good jayvee team. Now those guys get their chance.”

Replacing Anderson in goal will be Noah Steedley, who backed up Anderson last season and played in several games.

Steedley had a clean sheet against Carson on opening night He was peppered with shots by West Rowan in South’s second game, but Fisher said he made 15 to 20 saves.

As far as returning goal-scorers, Jordi Cortez produced four for the Raiders in 2019, while Carson Withers and Zander Efird found the back of the net three times each. Efird earned a starting role as a freshman and has a big future.

Fisher is looking for additional firepower from Alex Rivas, Ozzy Pulido and Jeremy Beatley.

The 6-foot-4 Beatley transferred to South Rowan from Cox Mill, but with South being senior-heavy, he played in 2019 for the jayvees. He could make a major impact in this shortened season.

“He’s a big addition because he’s got an unusual combination of speed and size.” Fisher said.

Beatley, Rivas, Pulido and Cortez scored for South in the opening win against Carson, but South was blanked in its next two outings by West Rowan and A.L. Brown.

Fisher drew a red card in the West match. He may be the first coach in state history to be red-carded for asking officials to enforce rules regarding the wearing of masks.

It’s definitely going to be a strange COVID season. There are going to be a lot of firsts.

“It’s a different year, and a lot of teams have lost guys to virtual school and to grades and the delays and the uncertainty regarding the season,” Fisher said. “We don’t have four or five potential starters we expected to have.But the guys we do have are very excited about playing.”

Fisher expects the CCC to be rugged again.

“There are so many great coaches in this league,” Fisher said. “Ledford, Salisbury, West Davidson — those schools are going to be good every year. They don’t have down seasons. We’re looking forward to the competition.  It’s just 14 games, not the 20-some we’re used to, but we’ve got seniors who are pushing their teammates to make the most of all of them.”







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