For years there was one seat of power in SCISA boys soccer: Pinewood Prep.
The Summerville-based school won its first independent schools title in 2004. It was the start of a long reign by the Panthers, who stayed on top for seven seasons before the opposition, led by Cardinal Newman, leveled the playing field starting in 2011.
“Pinewood had a great run, and the reason why is that they had great players who always seemed to make the big plays in the big games,” Cardinal Newman coach Will Eudy said. “If anybody was going to stop them, change the equation, it was going to have to be by beating Pinewood at its own game by making plays when it counted the most.”
The Cardinals qualify in that regard. Cardinal Newman ended the Panthers’ reign with 3-0 win against Pinewood Prep in the 2011 championship match. Pinewood avenged that loss with a 1-0 semfinal upset of the Cardinals in 2012. But Eudy’s inspired club took back the title with a dramatic 4-3 overtime win in the championship match this year.
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“We’ve come a long way, but it took a little time for us to get past Pinewood,” said Eudy, who was named the coach in 2007.
The Cardinals are one of The State’s Dozen Dynasties in the Midlands.
Cardinal Newman and Pinewood have squared off in postseason elimination games in each of the past eight seasons, five times in the finals.
Now it’s the Cardinals who might be in for an extended reign.
“We’ve achieved a lot over the past three seasons,” Eudy said. “And with a great rising junior class and a great rising eighth-grade class, we have a chance to really turn a corner, make a name for ourselves and become special. We have great young talent, but to reach that other level it will all come down to whether the guys are willing to do the work necessary to get there.”
The Cardinals have been special enough over the past three seasons (62-16-2 record) to establish the pattern for the younger players to follow. The foundation of a potential dynasty is in place.
Cardinal Newman’s rise to prominence coincided with the arrival of two elite players — Nestor Jaramillo and Koty Millard, who were the state’s two most recent Gatorade players of the year.
Both were crowd pleasers with flashy open-field skills.
Jaramillo, a forward, finished with 103 goals and 56 assists at Cardinal Newman and was named to the NSCAA All-America team in 2011. He is playing at Wofford.
“He’s a natural, a special talent,” said Rob Strickland, Jaramillo’s club coach at South Carolina United. “He can beat anyone on the dribble, has good vision and scored spectacular set-piece goals.”
Millard, a midfielder, almost did not get the chance to play as a senior because of his commitment to USA Soccer’s academy program. But he applied for a waiver and was granted permission to return to the Cardinals. It was a momentous ruling. Millard scored 26 goals and 20 assists while leading Cardinal Newman to a 20-6-2 record. He scored a hat trick in the championship match, including the title-winning goal with less than two minutes remaining in overtime off an assist from his younger brother, Wyatt.
“You couldn’t have written a better script,” Eudy said. “It was karma for Koty’s decision to do everything possible to play his senior year with his buddies. There’s no question that we would not be where we are as a program right now without Nestor and Koty. They had the talent and the work ethic to inspire all our players to step up their games.”
Millard will play college soccer at South Carolina.
Eudy will miss his blue-chippers, but thinks the formula is in place for a long stay at the top.
“I have been blessed to have had so many great players and to have developed good chemistry with the players,” he said. “I’ve also had tremendous backing from the administration at school and from the parents. All of those factors have made the success we’ve enjoyed recently possible. I think everything is still in place and the future looks bright if I don’t get in the way.”
Eudy got the soccer bug early in the West Columbia-Cayce area from his father, Jeff, who helped creat the first club team in the area along with Wayne Collins, Dave Dunlap and Mike Stamps.
“I owe my love of the sport to my dad and those other men who gave me and my friends the chance to play the game as kids,” Eudy said. “I have always felt tremendous gratitude toward all of them.”
Eudy played under Kevin Heise at Brookland-Cayce and had two seasons at Newberry College before returning home.
“Kevin hired me to be his assistant and coach the jayvees,” he said. “He’s gave me the opportunity to coach.”
Eudy also coached at the club level and credits South Carolina United’s Clark Brisson and Strickland with giving him the opportunity to grow as a coach at the top junior level.
“Clark and Rob showed me what it takes to coach elite-level players and gave me the opportunity to do it,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have had so many positive soccer influences in my life as a player and as a coach. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lessons well.”
With 152 wins, two championships and seven final-four appearances, it is safe to say Eudy has picked up a few things along the way.