South Forsyth couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season.
The War Eagles’ boys soccer team dropped their first two matches of the season before a 7-1 run carried them into the middle of March and established them as contenders.
South Forsyth mustered 17 goals during that span, including 10 against Dawson County and five in a win over a promising Forsyth Central squad.
At the center of that was midfielder Patrick Kelly, who is the 2020 Forsyth County News Player of the year.
Kelly, a junior, scored nine goals and tallied seven assists for a South Forsyth team that finished 7-3 after the 2020 season was cut short because of concerns about the coronavirus.
“I just feel heartbroken for our seniors,” Kelly said. “As a junior now, I still have another year, but all of our seniors from this past year really put everything in and didn’t really get the chance to finish.”
Kelly is a three-year starter and has twice been named the team’s most valuable player. He netted three goals and six assists last year as a sophomore.
In 2018, he helped South Forsyth to the Class 7A state title game as a freshman, where the War Eagles fell to Lambert, 2-1. Kelly scored South Forsyth’s lone goal in the match.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons Kelly finds himself drawn to the midfielder position.
“I think the playmaking ability and the ability to go to goal, attack and make things happen really drew me to that,” he said.
Kelly stepped up in double overtime of South Forsyth’s 2-1 win against West Forsyth in February, scoring the decisive goal for the War Eagles.
He drew a foul in the penalty box, then took the penalty kick but had it blocked by West Forsyth keeper Liam Badger. Undeterred, Kelly corralled the loose ball off the deflection and found the back of the net to give South Forsyth the win.
Kelly is unsure where he’ll play in college, and losing half a season of high school soccer makes the recruiting process a bit trickier, though Kelly is not too concerned.
“It impacts it a little bit,” Kelly said. “For guys, they usually commit in their senior year, rather than girls who commit younger. Next year playing club level at the ECNL will definitely help my recruiting.”
Kelly will be back in 2021, and the War Eagles could pick up a player or two after the shuttering of the US Soccer Development Academy, which had mandated that players affiliated with the academy could not compete for their high school teams.
While Kelly hopes he can help the War Eagles return to the pinnacle of high school soccer, after saying an abrupt goodbye to South Forsyth’s senior class, Kelly is simply looking forward to getting back on the field and creating memories with his teammates.
“I think definitely make a deep run into the playoffs and hopefully a state championship for our team,” Kelly said. “And just bonding with everyone, really.”