Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Athens defenders Drew Bowman, left, and Bryan Dean, right, pursue Brewer's Justin Reed during first-half action in Patriots' 2-0 win at Brewer High on Monday.
Brewer soccer claims first trip to postseason
By Bradley Handwerger
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FLORETTE — Colton Stinson swept his foot beneath the soccer ball, barely clipping the top of the grass.
It floated head-high past two Athens defenders, parked in the 18-yard box, desperately defending yet another Brewer offensive attack.
To the back post ran Stinson's Brewer teammate Grant Pierce, a freshman in the right place at the right time.
He volleyed the ball far post past Athens' goalkeeper and into the net.
It proved to be the game-winning goal, 48 minutes into Brewer's Class 5A,
Section 8 match against the Golden Eagles.
Brewer tacked on another goal minutes before the final whistle and that earned earned its first-ever soccer playoff bid with a 2-0 victory.
"I looked up back post, saw Grant wide open, played it the best I could and it was successful," said Stinson, his eyes still gleaming from the assist and the game.
And now Brewer (15-3-1, 6-2 Section 8) can claim to have done something no other Patriots' club before can say — it is playoff-bound.
With a week left until the postseason begins, Brewer is pretty sure of its opponent.
Should Decatur pick up a win Tuesday against Lee, the Red Raiders will host Brewer on May 1 in the opening round.
It'll be the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season, the record even at 1-1-1. But Brewer owns the biggest victory over Decatur, defeating the Red Raiders 4-2 in the finals of the Morgan County soccer tournament.
Brewer head coach Michael Drinkard believes the Patriots will be ready. After all, Monday's game was a de facto playoff game because the winner advanced, while the loser's season abruptly ended.
"We told them going into tonight's game that the playoffs started tonight," Drinkard
"Win, you're in. Lose, you're out. The focus now becomes Decatur. We've seen them before. They've seen us before."
When Monday's game finished, Drinkard gathered his team just off the field and right beside the home bench. He wasn't the guy who ended up giving the victory speech, however.
Athens head coach Ron Oakley did the honors, telling the Patriots that though he would rather his Golden Eagles (11-9-2) have won, he's proud Brewer will be representing the area in the playoffs.
He warned them that they have to cherish the berth, that it doesn't come every day. He told them that Section 8 is one of the two toughest regions in the state, meaning that Brewer will be ready for whomever it meets in the postseason.
And he also congratulated them on the vast improvement they've made as a soccer team in his seven years coaching Athens.
"We expect to be in the playoffs," Oakley said minutes after giving that speech. "But if we can't be there, I want it to be somebody like Brewer. We've been there. Athens never got the respect in soccer. Brewer is probably the same way."
He added, "This is the best Brewer team what we've played. They have arrived on the soccer scene, and people are going to have to deal with them."
Monday night at Brewer, it was Athens that had to deal with the Patriots. Despite Brewer controlling the play 60 percent to 40 in the opening half, the game was tied 0-0 at halftime.
"They were a little tight," Drinkard said. "At halftime, I told them, 'It's nothing-nothing. You've had opportunities. You just have to make it click.' "
Fewer than 10 minutes after halftime, Brewer made it click. That's when Stinson saw the opening, dribbled down the field and assisted on Pierce's goal.
Athens woke up, though, and began to pressure Brewer's backline. The Golden Eagles took one long-range shot that Brewer goalkeeper Sawyer McLemore had to punch away, the only time of the game that Athens truly had a chance at scoring.
"They hadn't been putting up many shots and I wasn't expecting to have to punch it over the goal," McLemore said.
But his punch-save, and five total saves, allowed Brewer, as much as the goals, to move into the playoffs.
"It's awesome, considering that Hunter (Stinson), our assistant, is one of the best goalies Brewer has ever seen, and to make it and his team didn't — it's a great feeling to accomplish something other teams didn't get to do," McLemore said.
Brewer's second goal came in the 76th minute when Jeremy Talley used one touch to control the ball, then knocked it into the net.
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