Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Brewer High soccer players, from left, Ben Maxwell, Austin Parker, Jared Latham and Keith Slater celebrate the Patriots' 2-1 win over Class 5A opponent Decatur in the first round of the state playoffs in Decatur on Tuesday.
Patriots control second half to claim playoff win
By Bradley Handwerger
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Jeremy Talley appeared spent, his face burned red by an afternoon in the sun, his hair wet and disheveled. He wore a gray 2007 Morgan County soccer tournament champion T-shirt and a light pair of blue jeans.
But the smile, yes, the smile was all you needed to see to know Talley had a good day.
The Brewer midfielder scored the game-winning goal in the 77th minute Tuesday to push the Patriots to their first postseason win, a 2-1 comeback victory over Decatur in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs at Ogle Stadium. Brewer will face John Carroll at home in Saturday's second round.
On the winning goal, Talley gathered a ball sent through the air from Brewer's half of the field, then raced toward the Decatur goal with the Red Raiders' Phoenix Iverson on his heels.
With both fighting for possession near the endline, Iverson fell, giving Talley the opening he needed.
"I knew he was going to try to strip me," said Talley, a junior. "I looked up, and he was on all fours. The goal was wide open. I knew when I hit it, it was going in."
Said Iverson: "When I went to clear it, I stumbled."
The goal came on just the third shot of the game for Brewer (16-3-1), and Decatur outshot the Patriots 9-3.
Decatur (12-4-3) controlled the game for most of the first half and much of the first 20 minutes of the second half.
The Red Raiders were the aggressors, getting called offside 12 times during the game in an attempt to take the game to Brewer.
"We won the first half; they won the second," Decatur coach Brian Quarles said. "The game ended 2-1 because they outplayed us in the second half."
Decatur controlled the contest in the opening 40 minutes, and by winning nearly every 50-50 ball, kept the Patriots from playing the possession-style of game they like. Decatur didn't allow Brewer a shot in the first half.
Raul Alanis and Mason Hastie put Decatur up 1-0 in the 24th minute. All it took was a set piece from 45 yards out, and a fortunate bump inside the 6-yard box.
Alanis knuckled the ball over the defense and into a mass of humanity in front of the goal. Brewer goalkeeper Sawyer McLemore attempted to grab the ball, but his own player ran into him, knocking the ball loose.
Hastie put a toe to the ball and tapped it into the open net.
But Quarles was still wary of Brewer, knowing its ability to comeback.
"Anything can happen," Quarles said. "We got a lucky goal. We happened to have a guy there, and he got his foot on the ball, and it went into the goal. We told them just that quick they could have that same opportunity and get one in the back of the net."
Opportunity knocked as the game entered the final bit of play.
The difference came after the 60th minute. Brewer, playing tight and nervous for the first 50 minutes, began hitting combinations in the midfield. Possession began to favor the Patriots.
Then in the 66th minute, Eric Vallejo dribbled to the left corner, with a Decatur defender close on his heels. Vallejo coaxed the defender to fall, drove into open space, then laid the ball off to Justin Reed, who one-touched it to the far post past Decatur goalkeeper Andrew Wenzler.
Suddenly, after Decatur had controlled much of the game, it was tied 1-1.
"They were a little uptight. I did my best to keep them relaxed," Brewer coach Michael Drinkard said. "Decatur came out and took it to us in the first half."
Then 11 minutes later, Talley finished off Decatur with his goal.
"We should have won," Iverson said. "Just mentally, we put on the brakes and quit attacking and they capitalized."
Brewer's McLemore came up with six saves, allowing his team time to settle down.
"Save after save," Drinkard said.
The Patriots now play John Carroll, a daunting task once you find out it's 23-0-1 and had outscored opponent 118-8 heading into the playoffs. John Carroll advanced with a 4-0 win over Fort Payne.
However, Tuesday was meant for celebration.
"It's huge. It is humongous," McLemore said.
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