ROCKINGHAM — On Saturday, more than 100 athletes hailing from six counties across North and South Carolina braved the mid-90 degree heat to participate in the fifth annual HWY 55 Burgers, Shakes and Fries three-on-three soccer tournament.
The event, hosted by the Richmond Rush Football Club, took place at Browder Park and raised nearly $2,000 for the Benny and Connie Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The 22 competing teams were separated into four divisions — Open Division (nine teams), High School Division (five teams), Middle School Boys (four teams), and Middle School Girls (four teams). The victors from three scholastic level divisions came from the North, East, and South. The Athletic Club of the Sandhills (Moore County) took the Middle School Girls medal, Cheraw United (Cheraw, South Carolina) claimed the Middle School Boys championship, and Elite Academy FC (Robeson County) earned the high school title.
Since only one high school girls team registered, there was only one high school division. The lone girls team, made up of Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders, competed with the boys teams. The only title claimed by a Richmond County-based group this year was in the open division by the men’s team sponsored by Richmond Auto Sales.
Probably the most exciting finish of the day was in the middle school boys finale. Athletic Club of the Sandhills and Cheraw United ended the championship match all knotted up at 4 apiece. Tournament rules sent the teams straight into penalty kick mode to break the tie. Cheraw United outshot ACS 3-2 to earn the first place medals.
All teams began the day in pool play. Each team squared off with all of the other teams in their division and the programs with the best records moved on to compete in the tournament finals.
The speed of the games, quick changes of possession, and the smaller playing area makes 3-vs-3 soccer feel a little more like hockey. Defensively, there are no goalkeepers, but the smaller field of play helps players move into position to defend the net when needed. The physical dimensions of the goals are also much smaller, making it difficult to score even when the net is undefended.
Many attendees spent their entire day at the park and Hwy 55 had them covered. The tournament’s sponsor sold hamburgers and hot dogs to hungry spectators. The Twisted Treats ice cream truck provided fans with a cool snack as well as a weapon to fight the midday heat.
The Benny and Connie Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund provides two $1,000 scholarships annually to students who attend Ellerbe Middle School or live in Ellerbe. The recipient of the fundraiser’s proceeds changes each year and the scholarship fund was chosen this year by event coordinators Keith and Colleen Parsons as a way to honor Keith’s parents.