Last Thursday, five days after losing to Oxford in the Yellow Jacket Invitational, the Lions (3-3-1) roared back at the Class 6A team on the road and tied the Yellow Jackets, 2-2.
“It was a good, good tie,” Faith coach Erik McDaniel said. “Oxford works very hard and we matched that, at least to some point. Playing teams like Oxford absolutely helps us toward the playoffs.”
But the tie was bigger than just a game for the Lions. It was the clicking moment for a team that lost six seniors last year.
“It was really hard to step out onto the field without all of our friends from last year, but then we just kind of started clicking,” sophomore Josiah McDaniel said. “It was against Oxford, mostly.”
It was also the moment former role players started getting comfortable with their roles as leaders.
“We’ve never had a team this young,” sophomore Tyler Johnson said. “Last year’s seniors brought a lot of encouragement to practice and pushed us. This year we have to do that.”
With last season’s ending — coming in a penalty-kick sudden death to Susan Moore in the first round of the playoffs — still being fresh on its players’ minds, Faith has been led by its captains, Andrew Gattrell, Stephen Emerson and Parker Moore.
“Last year after the seniors were gone, we had a meeting and I said, ‘Right now, looking at you all, I’m putting us in the top 5 all time at Faith,’” Erik McDaniel said. “This year, they’re still trying to step into that role. This team can achieve more than last year’s team.”
While Oxford provided a tie for the Lions, Faith has played bigger schools almost exclusively, falling to Class 5A Talladega and Sylacauga and Oxford. Its wins are against Class 4A Cherokee County, Class 5A Moody and area opponent Donoho.
“It gives us better competition,” junior Sydney Norden said. “They’re bigger and faster teams that we need to play against to see how we could do in playoffs.”
Moore said confidence is building for the team while McDaniel is convinced the team has had the capability to win all along. It’s the team, however, that needs to be convinced, as well.
“The skill and talent is there,” he said. “It’s just mentally, can they stay focused? Two of the things we’re pushing this year are hunger and procession. Will we be hungry?”
McDaniel said Friday’s rematch with Talladega, this time at home, will truly show where Faith stands in the season and if the team has turned a corner.
“We’ll see,” McDaniel said. “How we do in that match will help me measure more and more if we’ll really turned the corner.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.