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Julia Ryle and Chloe Kennedy shout at one another as they prepare to play in the AYSA Division II soccer tournament at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex on Friday in Decatur. The girls play for the top-ranked Tornadoes from Gadsden in the Youth 15 category.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Julia Ryle and Chloe Kennedy shout at one another as they prepare to play in the AYSA Division II soccer tournament at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex on Friday in Decatur. The girls play for the top-ranked Tornadoes from Gadsden in the Youth 15 category.

We built it . . .
and they came

More than 3,000 soccer players in Decatur for state tournament

By Catherine Godbey
cgodbey@decaturdaily.com 340-2441

Cheers erupted with every pass, tackle and goal.

Under the bright lights, family, friends and fans intently watched as the players raced to the ball.

Yells of support echoed across the field: "Pass the ball! Pass the ball!" "Let's go, red!" "Run!"

No, none of these cheers occurred at Ogle Stadium. None supported the Austin Black Bears or Decatur Red Raiders. And none mentioned a touchdown or field goal.

The impassioned cheers did surround a football game — a European football game.

As local residents flooded Ogle Stadium, state soccer fans converged on the Jack Allen Recreation Complex and the Spirit of America fields.

The Alabama Youth Soccer Association initiated tournament play for the Division II State Cup on Friday night. The Division I State Cup competition starts Saturday.

Vehicles bearing tags from Mobile, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties filled the Jack Allen parking lots. Windshields displayed fans' messages written in shoe polish.

One message, "State Cup or Bust," symbolized the players and their families' commitment to soccer.

Sitting side by side in their lawn chairs, Ricky and Sherri Ray, Susan Smith, Marcia Sewell and Regina Stinson had traveled over two hours to support their sons, who play for the Gadsden-based Coosa Storm 18-and-under boys team.

"You don't miss anything your son wants to do," Smith said. "If he said he wanted to go to outer space, I would be out there the next day building a space shuttle ... but this (soccer) is a nice, safe way to have fun."

Before traveling 21/2 hours from Tuscaloosa, Mark Scogin, David Nikles and Eddie Sherwood arranged for their sons to leave school early in order to make the 6 p.m. game. They expressed amazement about the Jack Allen Complex.

"We've competed all over the state, and the only field that compares to this quality is the field the University of Alabama women's team plays on, and that's NCAA," Scogin said.

Decatur is hosting the Division I and Division II State Cups for the first time, but not for the last. AYSA designated the city to host the tournament until 2009, and fans at the Jack Allen Complex support that decision.

Like Europe?

"This complex compares to any of the soccer fields in Europe," said John Khalilian, a former player for the Iranian national team whose son plays for the Tuscaloosa Arsenal. "They may have one field as nice as these, but not multiple fields together."

"The Jack Allen Complex is proof that if you build it they will come," said Jeff Dunlap, director of Decatur's Parks and Recreation Department.

Local teams will take the field today as Decatur's Raptors 93 team battles in the Division I category for ages 15 and under. The Division II competition features Raptors 92 and Raptors 94 in the girls bracket, with Revolution 94 the sole male team representing Decatur.

Next weekend, too

For the competing teams, the goal is to return to Decatur next weekend when the semifinals and finals for the state cups take place. Already scheduled to compete next weekend in the Division I State Cup 18-and-under girls semifinal tournament is Decatur's Raptors 90 team.

Division I tournament winners advance to regional and national competitions. For the winners of the Division II tournament, regional competitions await.

More than 175 teams and 3,000 participants will battle each other this weekend, hoping to return and vie for the titles of State Cup champions. c

Jack Allen Recreation Complex

Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Point Mallard Park

Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Austin High School

Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday, 8 a.m.-noon.

Wilson Morgan Park

Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday, 8 a.m.-noon.

Admission: Free, but a weekend parking pass is $10 for cars and $25 for buses, recreational vehicles and trailers.

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