AIKEN — Stratford came into Thursday’s Class AAAA boys soccer playoff game knowing it needed to slow down South Aiken. To achieve this goal, the Knights played extra men back on defense, sacrificing possession of the ball and scoring opportunities.

“We knew they were strong up top with two all-state caliber players in (Daniel Zaremba) and (Skyler) Lightbody,” Stratford head coach Alister DeLong said. “The plan didn’t go well.”

While the strategy to crowd the middle of the field and reduce open spaces prevented the Thoroughbreds from running wild, it didn’t stop them from scoring. Their constant pressure resulted in a pair of first-half goals and ultimately forced the Knights (15-7) to change tact, resulting in more goals in a 5-1 South Aiken win.

Down by three with time running out, the Knights had to abandon their heavy defensive approach. This allowed Josh Lucarelli to score Stratford’s only goal, getting off a point-blank blast off a looping cross that eluded a diving Michael Ulmer.