Pell City High’s boys soccer team takes on Fort Payne this morning at 11 in the Class 6A semifinals at John Hunt Park in Huntsville.
With this being their first time advancing to the Final Four, the players are garnering a huge amount of support.
“It is a lot of excitement for the boys between the parents and the school,” Pell City head coach Sergio Alvarez said. “The whole school system is proud of the boys and what they have accomplished so far. Even the community, there are a lot of people in the community that are happy about it. They do not know a lot about soccer, but just knowing that our school team made it to the Final Four, it gives the community something to be excited about. The boys are nervous, but as soon as the game kicks off, the nerves will go away.”
Besides dealing with nerves, Pell City will also have to deal with the heat. When the game starts, it will be 86 degrees, which will be highest temperature that Pell City has played in this season. Alvarez said they spend the last few days working on their conditioning to prepare for the heat.
“It is going to be a hot day,” Alvarez said. “This week we worked on a lot of conditioning to get used to this weather. We have not played in hot weather. It is going to be hot game. The boys are pushing hard. I see that they are hungry, they want this game. I think they have started believing in themselves and that they can take Fort Payne down. I believe so, too, and I think they are going to do it. I believe Fort Payne is going to be surprised how we want to play.”
Fort Payne enters today’s game looking to remain undefeated. The Wildcats hang their hats on defense as they have held 10 opponents scoreless this season. Three of their shutouts have occurred in the postseason. Fort Payne defeated Albertville, 3-0, Hazel Green, 4-0, and Florence, 1-0.
Even though Fort Payne hasn’t lost a game, don’t expect Pell City to go into the match intimidated.
“We have looked at Fort Payne and some of the games that they have played,” Alvarez said. “The closest (film) we could get is when they played Oxford at the beginning of the season and they won, 1-0. They beat Oxford at the end of the season, 5-0, but Oxford didn’t have anything to play for since they were out of the playoffs. (Oxford) ultimately made the playoffs because Cullman was disqualified. We played Oxford and we could have won that game. We created 14 shots on goal and they created four. They beat us 2-1 in one of those games where it wasn’t our day. If they can only beat Oxford, 1-0, we can take them down. I think it is going to be a good and competitive game.”
Pell City (13-5-2) defeated Clay Chalkville, 2-1, in a thrilling third round match to advance to the Final Four. The Panthers defense led the way in the second half as freshman keeper Oie Osborne made several timely saves. Tyler Ivey scored the game-winning goal for the Panthers.
Ivey is one of the players that Alvarez will be depending on to score early and often if they are going to defeat a Fort Payne team that hasn’t allowed a goal since April 12 in a 2-1 win over Southside-Gadsden.
“It is going to take heart; we have to keep our head cool,” Alvarez said. “It is going to take doing what we did on the practice field. It is going to take a lot of things to work together if we are going to win. We are going to have to score first; if you score first you are forcing them to have to score twice to win the game. That is the main thing, trying to score first.”