News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Playoffs turn tough for local soccer trio
Brewer, Decatur, East Limestone
must face tough foes

By Bradley Handwerger 340-2462

When Sunday morning comes around, Michael Drinkard, Mike Pline and Tim Kay all can get together for a cup of joe and either celebrate or commiserate.

On Saturday night, Drinkard's Brewer Patriots, Pline's Decatur Lady Red Raiders and Kay's East Limestone Indians all face state powers in the quarterfinals of the high school soccer playoffs.

Brewer will host John Carroll, which won five straight state championships during 1996-2000 and made the Class 5A finals a year ago.

Decatur will travel to Fort Payne, which reached the 5A second round the past two years, was state runner-up in 2002 and '04 and won it all in 2001 and '03.

East Limestone will play at Mars Hill, a school which has reached at least the semifinals in four of the past five years, including appearances in the past two 1A-4A finals.

Also, Athens plays at Southside-Gadsden in girls 5A quarterfinal match.

But Drinkard's Patriots have the honor of hosting the only second round playoff match. It won't be easy.

John Carroll is 23-0-1, has allowed only eight goals this season and has stayed No. 1 in the state poll for most of the season.

"They're very talented across the board," Drinkard said. "They've never given up more than one goal in a game and they've played some quality opponents.

"They didn't get to be No. 1 ranked and undefeated this late in the season by luck."

The task at hand is almost enough to make you forget Brewer (16-3-1) picked up its first postseason win in the program's history Tuesday afternoon against Decatur.

"It still feels great. Incredible," Drinkard said. "By the same token, it's like, 'Yep, that's one down.' It's not like, 'Hey, we won one, and it's time to go home.'

"The goal wasn't to win one playoff game; the goal has been win everything."

And while it took Brewer a while to get going in its 2-1 win over Decatur, the Patriots can't afford a slow start Saturday.

"We can't wait until the last minute," Drinkard said. "We're going to have to go out there and be intense from the first."

Pline's Lady Red Raiders (14-7-4) have to go to a foreign environment after using the home-field advantage to the tune of a 5-0 first-round win over Cullman on Tuesday.

"I don't know what the field conditions are," Pline said. "I don't know the quality of the referees. It's just a different environment that the girls haven't been in."

According to Pline, his girls will match up well with Fort Payne (12-7-0). Both teams are physical and fast.

"The key will be that we don't squander our scoring opportunities, that we do the fundamental things right so that we can score," Pline said.

East Limestone (11-4-2) has lost only once since the calendar turned to from March to April, and has won four of its past five games. Nevertheless, the Indians won't have an easy walk into the 1A-4A semifinals.

Kay said Mars Hill plays a vertical game, akin to what you would see in European soccer. That will put pressure on the Indians' defense, which is East Limestone's strength, Kay said.

"If we can execute and play solid defense, I like our chances," Kay said.

He said East Limestone will have to keep the ball on the ground and connect on combination passes and keep good spacing on the field to have a chance against Mars Hill.

As for Athens (11-6-2), it appears to be in a evenly matched game.

The Lady Golden Eagles will face an opponent that has won five in a row, but has scored 33 goals while allowing 31. Additionally, Southside-Gadsden (11-8-3) is 1-3-1 against teams ranked in the final girls 5A poll.

Athens itself has posted a 1-3-2 record against teams in the final 5A poll. The Lady Golden Eagles have allowed 49 goals while scoring 47. Athens has won its past two games by a combined 7-1 margin.

State quarterfinal soccer pairings

Class 5A girls

Decatur at Fort Payne, noon

Athens at Southside-Gadsden, 7 p.m.

Class 1A-4A boys

East Limestone at Mars Hill, 7 p.m.

Class 5A boys

John Carroll at Brewer, 7 p.m.

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