FLORENCE, S.C. – The 2020 season was supposed to be where The King’s Academy’s young boys’ soccer team gained valuable playing time.
“Last year was supposed to be a transition year from our state championship two years ago,” TKA coach Jordan Perugini said. “We were extremely young last year, and the hope was we were going to have experience to build on from last year to go into this year with some higher expectations.”
But the 2019 SCISA 1A state champs barely got a title defense in as the pandemic shut the season down after just two games — forcing the Lions to enter this season still looking to build some valuable experience for its young core.
But Perugini was pleased with his squad’s 6-4 loss to 3A Northwood Academy on Thursday in the season opener. Despite being down by four goals at one point, TKA put a pair of shots in the net during the final seven minutes and was pushing for more when the game ended.
“We’re extremely young and the fact that they didn’t hold their heads down and just give up…that’s the biggest thing and the best thing that I could ask for as a coach,” Perugini said. “…We’re a lot of ninth and 10th graders – that’s probably 75% of our team. So just catching them up to speed a little bit, I thought they did pretty well, considering the late charge at the end.”
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The game could have easily gotten out of hand after the Chargers’ Anderson Calhoun scored a pair of early goals in the opening minutes of the second half to put his team up 4-1.
But the Lions cut the lead down to two on Nate Watson’s goal. Watson also posted the final goal for TKA in stoppage time.
Another pair of NA goals less than four minutes apart made it 6-2 with less than 15 minutes remaining before the Lions collected themselves for several offensive pushes. Wesley Richbourg scored with less than seven minutes left before Watson found the back of the net for the second time in the half to cut the lead to two goals.
“We felt like the adjustments we were able to make was one, to cover a lot sooner on their throw-ins because they had some kids that could really throw the ball in,” Perugini said. “Offensively, we felt like they were playing their line high and that if we had the ball in the middle, we would be able to make those through cuts through the back of their defense.”
The Lions’ biggest adjustment for next time, however, is working on controlling the ball more in the middle, he added.
“That ultimately is what really hurt us,” Perugini said. “Towards the end of the second half, that’s what we were able to do is control the ball a little bit more in the middle and that yielded a couple of goals toward the end.”
Nick Ferrigno had the other goal for TKA in the first half, which tied the game at 1 at the time. Trotter Scearce also notched a pair of assists.