1. FAREWELL SEASON
By now, most soccer fans in the state know that Phil Savitz is leaving Irmo after the 2013 season for new River Bluff High. Will the Yellow Jackets send out their legendary coach a winner? Savatz has guided Irmo to 13 state champions, but the Jackets have not been back to the winners circle since 2004 the longest title drought in program history.
2. MARK THE DATES
Two of the three classification scoring leaders in 2012 will be going head-to-head this season in Region 5-3A. Brookland-Cayce senior Herbert Cojulun, who tallied 36 goals and a Class 3A high of 81 points, will square off twice this season against Gilbert senior Jose Cedillo, who rang up 41 goals and 82 points to lead all 2A players a year ago. The first meeting of the season between the No. 5 Indians and the No. 7 Bearcats is March 22 at The Cage; the rematch is April 16 at Gilbert.
3. MIDLANDS PROS
Former Midlands stars Hunter Gilstrap (Lexington) and Zach Prince (Irmo) now are professional players. Gilstrap is a member of the Major League Soccers Pittsburgh Riverhounds, while Prince plays for the Charleston Battery.
4. REDHAWKS STEP UP
First-year Westwood accepted the biggest challenge of the its inaugural campaign when coach Don Paradise committed his team to fill an open spot at the elite Palmetto Cup tournament hosted by Brookland-Cayce. Paradise stepped up in October when Knoxville Catholic withdrew.
5. PALMETTO CUP
BACK TO 16 TEAMS
The annual blue-chip tournament returns to the 16-team format that was in place between 2003 and 2009. The field was not complete until December when Clinton filled a late opening created by a withdrawal by Eastside. The field features Midlands entries Brookland-Cayce, Lexington, Westwood and Cardinal, Newman. There are also traditional Lowcountry power Wando and Bishop England and familiar Cup entries Dobyns-Bennett and Farragut from Tennessee.
6. CARDINALS AMBITIOUS SLATE
No one can accuse Cardinal Newman of playing a soft, SCISA-centric schedule. Indeed, coach Will Eudy has assembled what might be the most challenging schedule in the Midlands this spring. CN opened the season at Chapins preseason tournament and is also entered at the Palmetto Cup and Airport Select Invitational events in April. Moreover, the Cards have regular season matches against Wando (March 8), Stratford (GA) Academy (March 27), Irmo (April 25) and Northwestern (April 29).
7. EAGLES EYE BIG SEASON
Chapin enters the 2013 season ranked No. 3 in Class 3A and determined to restore the luster. The program produced seven state finalists in Class 2A between 1993 and 2003, winning back-to-back championships (2002-03). But the Eagles have not won a championship since moving up to Class 3A and made it to the finals one time in 2008. All-state senior Will Norris has signed to play at Wofford.
8. SPRING VALLEYS CLARK HITS MILESTONE
Spring Valley coach Dave Clark earned his 300th career win on March 7 when his Vikings scored a 2-1 shootout win over Chapin. Clark was selected to coach in the Clash of the Carolinas matches at Daniel Island in July. Clarked guided Spring Valley to three straight Class 4A championship matches (2006-08), beating Northwestern 3-2 in the 2007 final for the programs only state title.
Heathwood Hall may have the youngest team in the Midlands with 11 of the 19 players listed on its varsity roster being freshmen or eight-graders. The lone senior is forward Bradley Singleton, who was a standout on the basketball team.
10. GOING OUT IN STYLE
Cardinal Newman midfielder Koty Millard, who has had one of the more storied prep-youth careers in Midlands soccer, helped the Cardinals win a SCISA championship in 2011 and has played at the highest levels of junior national soccer. Before taking his skills to South Carolina, Millard has one bit of unfinished business leading the Cardinals to another SCISA title after last seasons semifinal loss to Pinewood Prep.