By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
The scene on the pitch following the King’s Warriors 3-1 loss to SC United on Saturday night was not what many would expect to see from two squads who battled in an intense 90-minute soccer match.
With arms locked between the Southern West Virginia and SC United players, a prayer was made and tears were dried.
“Competition ... if you look at the origin of the word it means to strive together,” King’s Warriors manager Scott Reitnour said. “And so, we’re praying for South Carolina.”
It’s been an emotional roller coaster for the team from Greenwood, S.C. this week. The team traveled to Charleston on Thursday evening for a match-up with the West Virginia Chaos, winning 3-2. But following the match, the team was informed of a terrible tragedy back home in South Carolina.
Corey Stringfellow, a member of the SC United Bantams U-17 squad, was a passenger in his brother Cameron’s car late Thursday evening when Cameron smashed it into several trees, killing Corey. Cameron has since been charged with felony DUI charges.
“We’ve had an emotional couple of days,” SC United manager Gary Winchester said. “We won on Thursday, and the tragedy of the young man dying, ya’ know, we’re emotionally charged. Unfortunately, in life terrible things like this happen and we can’t explain. It’s really great for us to be able to dedicate this win to Corey’s memory.”
The Bantams got the scoring started in the 31st minute when King’s Warrior defender Carter Robbins mistimed a pass to fellow defender Harry Sherwood. It was recovered by Bantam Ben Montry, who sent it sailing past keeper Erik Mozzo and into the upper-left corner of the net.
With 10 minutes remaining in the match, Bantam Nestor Jaramillo took to the corner, blasting it over the King’s Warriors defense and on to Joe Lontrato, who knocked it home for a 2-0 lead.
“I think communication at the back was the big thing,” Reitnour said. “It cost us goal No. 1. The set piece goal that they scored on their corner was a great finish. We spoke in the locker room about making sure that we were organized and intense defending the corner. We let our heads down, and they punished us.”
The King’s Warriors would come pushing back with under 8 minutes remaining when Harry Sherwood found Deybi Acevedo open in front of the keeper and was able to push it past him to bring Southern West Virginia within one goal.
However, the rally would be short lived when Sherwood and a Bantams attacker collided inside the King’s Warriors box, awarding SC United a penalty that Jack Reid capitalized on to give the Bantams the decisive goal.
“I thought, from the beginning, that South Carolina would be competitive,” Reitnour said. “They’ve got a lot of quality players, and they’re a well coached side. We anticipated a very competitive match from the start, and they lived up to the expectations.”
Even though the King’s Warriors possessed the ball for much of the game, they were unable to capitalize as the Bantams stacked the box, making it difficult for the attacking trio of Billy Forbes, Joe Jackson and Zari Prescod to penetrate.
“I thought we had possesional superiority,” Reitnour said. “We knocked the ball around well, maybe a few too many touches in the midfield at times, which slowed things down. We were a bit one dimensional with the attack down Zari’s side quite a bit. I would have liked to see us change the point of attack a little more quickly to involve Billy, which would have spread them out more.”
The King’s Warriors fell to 1-1-0 on the season, but Reitnour had reason for optimism.
“I think we’re in a good spot. It’s a long season,” he said. “At the end of each match, we’re going to ask what we did well, what we did poorly and what we can improve on in training the next day. We did some things well tonight. We did some things horribly wrong, and there are certainly things we can improve on going forward.”
The King’s Warriors will get their chance to show their improvement on Tuesday night when they take on the West Virginia Chaos in the second game of the Coal Cup Clash in Charleston.
As for the Bantams, they’ll arrive in Greenwood with 9 points to put them atop the South Atlantic Division table, but they’ll do so with a lot of emotion.
“We’ve enjoyed our trip to West Virginia,” Winchester said. “The hospitality of Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors is second to none. They’re an absolutely fantastic franchise, a great run organization, coaching staff and all the staff and players are phenomenal. It’s always good to go back with (the win); we’ll take what we can.”
— E-mail: Jrollins@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.