By Jonathan Deal
Athens scored four goals in the first seven minutes of the second half to cruise past Southside-Gadsden for an 8-0 sub-state playoff victory Tuesday night. The win set up a rematch with East Limestone Saturday after the Indians defeated Fort Payne 2-0 Tuesday.
The four-minute outburst to start the second half wasn’t the only scoring outburst Athens had in the game. The Golden Eagles scored four goals during a 13-minute period in the first half to take a comfortable lead into the break.
The scoring outburst came after an opening quarter of the game which was surprisingly close. Athens first real chance on goal came 20 minutes into the game when Christopher Gregory’s header skimmed the face of goal. Three minutes later, Gregory was denied from close range by the Southside keeper.
The save kept the game scoreless for the moment, but it only opened the floodgates for Athens.
“Any shot on goal gives us momentum,” said senior forward Ramon Jurado. “Even if it’s from way out. As a team, it gives you confidence. We really built on those first few shots.”
Wynn Baker opened the scoring for Athens in the 24th minute when he scored from the penalty spot after receiving a pass from his brother, Will. Will Baker had just made a crushing, but legal tackle to win the ball, and calmly passed to Wynn, who responded with an equally cool finish.
The goal signaled a change in Athens’ play after a docile first 20 minutes of the game. Athens continued to pile on the pressure and Jurado scored his first goal of the game just moments later.
“As a team, we keep a cool head,” said Jurado. “We trust each other with the ball, no matter what the situation is. If we pass the ball around, good things happen.”
Jurado was given a gift two minutes later to score his second goal. Jose Soto sent a lobbed through ball over the Southside defense, which the goalie muffed and the ball landed at the feet of an opportunistic Jurado who tapped the ball into the open net from eight yards out.
Gregory finished the scoring spree with 10 minutes left in the half when he found himself behind the Southside defense and sent a low shot into the side netting.
“We knew we had to win, so we turned it up,” said Gregory. “Once we got three or goals, we knew we had it. We just kept shoving down their throat and ended up with eight goals.”
Jurado opened the second-half with a goal in the first 40 seconds. The senior finished with three goals while Gregory had a goal and two assist. The Baker brothers along with Josh Bailey each scored a goal over the next seven minutes to put the game on ice.
No. 1 Athens (20-0-1) will host East Limestone (13-5-3) in a second-round sub-state match Saturday for a chance to advance to the final four. Athens won the previous two meetings this season.
Athens advanced to the second-round of the Class 5A playoffs with comfortable 2-0 victory over Southside Tuesday. Grace Morgan gave Athens lead on a breakaway seven minutes into the game. Amy Catherine Anderson scored the second goal ten minutes later off an assist from Klaire Philips.
No. 6 Athens will travel to Fort Payne Saturday for a chance to advance to the final four. Athens beat Fort Payne 4-0 earlier this season. The girls team will be going for their seventh consecutive trip to the state tournament.
Other notable playoff scores from Tuesday:
East Limestone 2, Fort Payne 0
Mars Hill Bible 4, Tanner 3 (OT, shootout)
Randolph 2, West Limestone 0