The Aggies (12-8-2) made the playoffs for the 13th straight season in soccer, and will face Pinson Valley on the road tonight at 7.
The Aggies lost to Talladega in their final game of the season, 1-0. The Tigers snapped a 13-year losing streak to Sylacauga with the win, but Sylacauga clinched its tiebreaking postseason berth by not conceding more than one goal.
However, if Hunter Beutler wasn’t there to save a second goal by the Tigers in the final seconds, it could have been a much different story.
“We’re counting our blessings,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Zedaker said. “We’re very fortunate to still be in the playoffs. “If our backup defender hadn’t hit the ball out of the goal we’d be sitting at home right now. But our mindset is that we’re the veteran squad, we’ve been there before. We expect to be in the playoffs every year, and that’s our attitude. We’ve got a business trip and we’re going to have to be road warriors.”
Toward the end of the Talladega game, Sylacauga defender Andrew Gamino was injured when he took a hard hit to the face. He was taken to the hospital, but Zedaker said he has been cleared to play tomorrow.
Now the Aggies will have to regroup as the attention turns to Pinson Valley.
“Pinson’s a quality team,” Zedaker said. “We played them earlier in the year and were fortunate enough to beat them 1-0. We’re going back and looking at that tape to see some things we can do.”
Zedaker said he is impressed with Pinson’s speed in the middle of the field. He said the Aggies will have to attack from the outside and give the scorers opportunities.
One of those scorers is senior Tartt Embry, who has netted 13 goals this season, second most on the team.
He scored the game’s only goal when Sylacauga and Pinson matched up March 3.
“It’s starting to really hit me that this could be the last time I play soccer for this high school,” Embry said. “So I really want it. We’re all going to have to work together as a team and give it all we have.”
Embry and his fellow seniors, J.T. Lovett and P.J. Ingram all want to keep the party going.
“It’s been a great year, I’m definitely going to miss it,” Ingram said. “I’m looking forward to keeping it going. I’m not ready to end it yet.”
If Sylacauga advances, the Aggies will play the winner of Chelsea and Moody. Chelsea is the favorite, a region team that beat the Aggies twice this year.
Although it’s tempting, Ingram said the Aggies are not looking ahead to the second round.
“You can’t make it to the next round if you don’t get through the first round,” he said. “We have to take care of business first.”
Lovett recalled the first time Sylacauga and Pinson met.
“They were pretty tough,” he said. “Real aggressive, had a lot of skill and they were real quick too. But we played really well as a team, and we played fast.”
Sylacauga will also have to deal with the effect the recent tornadoes had on Pinson.
“Those guys haven’t been in school since the tornadoes came through,” Zedaker said. “I talked to the coach and as far as his team goes everybody’s fine, but obviously that area got devastated. It’s a touchy situation how the kids will handle it.”
Being a playoff matchup, Zedaker noted the physicality the game will likely have.
“It’s going to be one of those matches where we’re sore at the end of it,” Zedaker said. “Hopefully, it’s a sweet sore and not a sad we’re going home sore.”
Contact Wesley Sinor at firstname.lastname@example.org.