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SEHS boys’ soccer team erases early deficit against Evans
Cole Hoffman
SEHS' Cole Hoffman does a dance to celebrate his second-half goal in the Mustangs' 4-1 win over Evans last Friday night. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

GUYTON – Ninety-seven seconds into their soccer match with Evans on Friday night, the South Effingham boys found themselves in a strange position – trailing.

But the Mustangs regrouped, dominated the midfield and impressively pulled away from the Knights 4-1 in a battle of unbeatens at the Corral.

SEHS raised its record to 6-0, 3-0 in Region 2-6A play. The six straight wins is the school’s best unblemished start to a soccer season since at least 2015, according to records from MaxPreps.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played,” Coach DaKota Paradice said. “The last half was better soccer, but we want to start playing at the top of our game and if we do that, that game could be way easier.”

Despite the slow start against the Knights, the Mustangs registered their best win to date. Evans entered the game with a 5-0-1 record, which included an early-season victory over defending region champion Glynn Academy.

Last season, SEHS and the Knights split their two-game series.

This time, South, trailing 1-0, tied the game on Logan Perez’s finish after a perfectly threaded 40-yard pass from Desmond Prince with 6:26 remaining in the first half.

The Mustangs took the lead with 32:48 left when Zach Rozo headed in a corner kick from Edson Escobar.

Desmond Prince
South Effingham's Desmond Prince gets off a shot amid Evans defenders as teammate Zach Rozo (5) looks on. Prince finished with two assists in the Mustangs' 4-1 victory over the Knights last Friday night. (Mark Lastinger for the Effingham Herald.)
Twenty-one seconds later, Cole Hoffman scored off another pass from Prince to make it 3-1.

J.P. Alonso added an insurance goal with an assist from Escobar to seal the win with 24:21 to play.

“Sometimes we come out a little cocky,” SEHS senior defensive back Devin Corley said. “It’s like (we think) we’re going to smoke these boys no matter what’s going on around us. Oh, it’s going to be an easy game. Then we get a wakeup call and we have to flip the switch.”

Corley’s absence Friday after a controversial red card earlier in the week scrambled the Mustangs’ back line and gave freshman Jude Rowe an unexpected start against Evans. But after the initial goal, the Knights managed only five shots on goal the rest of the way.

SEHS freshman goalie Ryan Ellwood suffered a leg injury with about 20 minutes left. Backup Travis Davis easily handled two soft shots on goal.

“We have some younger guys who saw (Evans’) record and maybe panicked, but we learned a little something about ourselves,” Paradice said. “We faced adversity in a good way. But at the end of the day, we have to find a way to lock in earlier. That’s a mentality we’re trying to fix.”

South shouldn’t have any problem getting up for rival Effingham County on Feb. 27 in Springfield. The Mustangs return home for matches against Lakeside on Friday and Glynn Academy on Tuesday (March 5).