By Jonathan Deal
Two weeks ago, even the most optimistic East Limestone supporter wouldn’t have thought they could make the playoffs.
The East boys soccer team started region play 1-3 and faced games against three ranked region opponents over the next two weeks.
Since April 8, the Indians have defeated No. 9 Cullman, No. 8 Hartselle and No. 5 Athens to stay in playoff contention.
After Saturday’s 3-1 win over Athens, East still needed help in order to make the playoffs. The Indians needed Cullman to beat Hartselle, but not more than two goals.
Cullman won 3-1 Saturday afternoon.
“That’s the only way we would have gotten in,” said East Limestone coach Jeremy Mitchell. “It all worked out.”
East pulled off one its best performances of the season against its biggest rival in another must-win game. Christian Light gave the Indians the lead 22 minutes into the game off an assist from Brad Moreau.
After Dilan Sayer scored eight minutes into the second half to give East a two-goal cushion, Miguel Rodriguez answered for Athens in the 56th minute to set up a tense final 24 minutes.
With Athens threatening to level the score, Sayer put the visitors away with his second goal of the game. Michael Jarrell played Sayer through on the left side of the box, and the junior did the rest.
His hard-hit shot to the near post gave East a 3-1 lead that proved enough for the win.
“They didn’t know all the scenarios going in. They knew we had to win to have a chance,” said Mitchell. “They knew when we were 1-3 that we were going to have to win out. That was over the last week and half. Our playoffs started a week and a half ago.”
Sayer’s two second-half goals brought his total to five in the last two games. Against Cullman Thursday, Sayer scored all three goals in regulation as East won in kicks from the spot in another must-win encounter. The junior has 35 goals this season.
“Dilan has been playing well,” said Mitchell. “He’s been playing well all season. He’s passing a lot more, which has allowed his teammates to score.”
East finished second in the region, behind Athens, and will travel to Fort Payne for the second consecutive season for a first-round playoff game.
East Limestone’s girls will also play at Fort Payne for their first-round playoff game. The games will played Tuesday, April 29, although times have not been determined.