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TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2007
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Decatur hosting new soccer rival Brewer
East Limestone, Athens
also home for state playoffs

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

Brewer and Decatur aren't rivals in the traditional sense, but they're fast becoming antagonists to each another.

The latest chapter plays out Tuesday when Brewer (15-3-1) travels to Ogle Stadium for a Class 5A state playoff
game against Decatur (12-3-3) at 4 p.m.

Previously, the two teams tied 2-2 on March 9, Decatur beat Brewer 2-1 on April 10 and the Patriots won 4-2 on April 16.

"I don't think there will be any big surprises," Brewer head coach Michael Drinkard
said. "No secret plays up our sleeves."

Nevertheless, games during the season don't matter much now that the postseason has arrived.

"Those games don't play a part of this game," Decatur coach Brian Quarles said. "They don't mean anything. It starts a new season for us."

Brewer and Decatur aren't alone. Eight other area teams have reached the state playoffs.

In boys 1A-4A, Priceville's boys visit Collinsville (7 p.m.), while East Limestone will host Westminster Christian (7 p.m.) and Athens Bible will go to Randolph (7 p.m.).

East Limestone's girls will host Randolph (5 p.m.), and Priceville will go to Guntersville (6 p.m.) in girls 1A-4A. In girls 5A, Brewer will travel to Fort Payne (6 p.m.), while Decatur will host Cullman (6 p.m.) and Athens will host Lee-Huntsville (5 p.m.).

For Brewer girls coach Sandra Sowder, the task her Lady Patriots have been given is unkind. Fort Payne has made the second round the past two years, was state runner-up in 2004 and '02, and won it all in 2003 and '01.

"It's going to be tough," Sowder said.

Fort Payne has outscored opponents by a nearly 2-1 average this season, and the Lady
Patriots (9-7-2) boast an eighth-grade goalkeeper in Patti Thomas.

While Thomas is good, Sowder said she still has a little ways to go to become an outstanding goalkeeper.

"She's a trooper, but she has definitely got some maturing to do in that position," Sowder said.

All the same, Sowder said the key to Tuesday's match will be holding off Fort Payne's prolific offense.

"They are notorious for just blowing a lot of opponents away, especially a younger team like ours," Sowder said. "Our big thing is going to be defending."

Should Brewer win, it will face the winner of the Decatur-Cullman game.

Decatur (13-7-4) and Cullman have not played each other this season, and all Lady Red Raiders coach Mike Pline knows about the Lady Bearcats is from playing them a year ago.

"All I can remember from last year is that they had a girl, a field player, who was extremely fast," Pline said.

Decatur is used to playing good opponents. Pline said that even though his current team hasn't experienced the playoffs and Decatur hasn't been to the postseason in at least seven seasons, the 2007 schedule more than makes up for that.

"In soccer, it's more about who you play during the season, whether you play the caliber of competition you'll see in the playoffs," said Pline, whose team played eight games in which the opponent was ranked.

"We've done what we needed to do."

Decatur has allowed only 17 goals on the season, while Cullman hasn't done nearly as well, giving up 58 goals.

That should play right into Pline's game plan.

"We need to come out from the start and play good soccer and play fundamental soccer and try to get an early lead if possible and then protect," Pline said.

Brad Carwile's East Limestone girls aren't new to the playoffs.

They've made the postseason annually under Carwile. But the Lady Indians are running into Randolph, a yearly contender for the state title.

"It's bad to win your area, then have to play the No. 2 team in the state," Carwile said. "But that's life. If we can get past them, hopefully we can get to the Final Four."

The teams have met once this year, with Randolph taking the 3-2 win when it scored with 45 seconds to play.

That game, however, showed East Limestone that it could play with Randolph.

"Randolph as a very, very strong midfield," Carwile said. "They like to work the ball toward the middle and shoot from the top of the box. They're well coached."

Carwile said to look for East Limestone to rely on counterattacks and a different substitution strategy than his team normally uses.

"We're going to sub a little bit differently to make sure our midfielders stay fresh," Carwile said. "The game is going to be won in the center of the field. I think we have as good a midfield as they do."

But the marquee match of the night in this area is Brewer's boys against Decatur.

The last time these two teams met, Brewer won the Morgan County tournament championship 4-2. It was the first county tournament title for the Patriots, and the first win over Decatur.

"We're two evenly matched teams," Quarles said. "We've formed a close relationship. Clean games. They enjoy playing each other."

That fact could help keep both teams focused. Tuesday's match marks Brewer's first foray into the postseason, while Decatur hasn't been since 2002.

Neither Drinkard nor Quarles thinks that a lack of playoff experience will
play a factor in the match.

"I've got a fair number of seniors this year that have played together four years, in some cases five," Drinkard said. "They know each other play. If I can keep them calm and relaxed and not too uptight, I think they'll be fine."

Said Quarles: "I don't necessarily think experience will win. That's proven year in and year out. I do think it plays an advantage sometimes, but I also think determination and heart can overcome experience factor."

State soccer playoffs

First-round pairings of the Alabama High School Athletic Association state soccer playoffs Tuesday. Here are the local teams involved:

Girls

Class 1A-4A

Randolph at East Limestone, 5 p.m.

Priceville at Guntersville, 6 p.m.

Class 5A

Brewer at Fort Payne, 6 p.m.

Cullman at Decatur, 6 p.m.

Lee-Huntsville at Athens, 5 p.m.

Boys

Class 1A-4A

Westminster Christian at East Limestone, 7 p.m.

Priceville at Collinsville, 7 p.m.

Athens Bible at Randolph, 7 p.m.

Class 5A

Brewer at Decatur, 4 p.m.

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