High School Sports

Focus on defense key to Beaufort High boys' success

There are pockets of time when the Beaufort High School boys soccer team knows to be wary.

After each Eagles goal, they look to the next five minutes as a critical time defensively, knowing the opposing team will be stung and on the attack. Beaufort High defenders switch to high alert. And usually only after the appropriate time has elapsed do the Eagles return to the attack or move the ball throughout the field to try to tire opposing players.

These compartmentalized moments have helped Beaufort High's defense throughout the season. And the object is to continue limiting the touches for goalkeeper Nick Manos as the Eagles enter the Class 4-A playoffs.

"We've had our midfielders drop back some this year and play a more defensive-minded game," Beaufort High defender Parker Essary said. "We've kept a defensive mind-set throughout the year."

Beaufort High plays host to White Knoll on Tuesday, the third consecutive season the Eagles have faced the same opponent in the first round.

The goal for those in the back is simple: Continue keeping the other team out of the net. During the regular season, the Eagles were successful. They shut out teams in 11 games and allowed 27 goals during the season while scoring 69.

Entering the year, the Eagles knew what they had up top, with standout forwards Andrew Settlemire and Christian Faale returning. But the back required some adjustments after the departure of Hayden Cormier, Connor Murphy and Jon Parker, who could help all over the field.

Essary and Ford Collins moved back from their spots in midfield. Kyle Clark moved inside from right back.

And with sophomores Josh Gutierrez and Andrew Gray filling key roles, the group has come together.

One goal is all the Eagles' defense needs to ratchet up the intensity, Essary said. And they know Settlemire and Faale, two of the top goal-scorers in the state, are going to usually be good for one.

"We don't have to worry about it as much," Essary said. "We just make sure we get them the ball and let them make plays."

Clark said work during practice tends to focus on protecting against set pieces and creating game situations where the backs move the ball around to try to create room. Solid passing has been key, he said.

"We just pass it around and create a lot of space for the midfield and forwards," Clark said.

And the shutouts have come.

Manos said the Eagles benefit from knowledge gained from common opponents. Beaufort High's soccer network runs deep through the club teams, and so there are sources willing to share what they know of the Eagles' upcoming opponents. And Manos said it helps to have played so long with some of the guys protecting him, that he trusts them.

There are going to be breakdowns.

The Eagles received a shock by losing at Fort Dorchester last week before closing the regular season. Beaufort High coach Gabriel Nieves said his team became too comfortable after clinching the Region 8-AAAA title the previous Friday and came out of the weekend far too relaxed.

He said he would be sure to issue a warning Monday as the Eagles prepare for what should be an easy victory. Step by step, he might say.

Five minutes at a time.

S.C. High School League boys soccer playoffs

Tuesday's first-round games

Class 4-A

White Knoll at Beaufort High, 6 p.m.

Class 3-A

Lakewood at Hilton Head High, 7 p.m.

Crestwood at Bluffton, 6 p.m.

Class 1-A

Burke at Hardeeville, 6:30 p.m.

Related stories from Hilton Head Island Packet