CCHS soccer earns area win over Calera during week’s action

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

After a wash out the first full week of March, Chilton County High School’s soccer teams got back on the pitch the week of March 11-15.

Two crucial AHSAA Class 6A Area 5 games awaited the Tigers, with the first on March 12 hosting Benjamin Russell High School. The varsity boys, who have battled slow starts throughout the season, made mistakes that BRHS capitalized on and fell into a 3-0 hole by the midway point of the second half. CCHS was granted a penalty kick shortly after the third Benjamin Russell goal, and midfielder Gentry Elmore stepped up to the spot and slotted it away to get the Tigers on the board. Jared Zurita cut the lead down to 3-2, firing a long-range effort into goal with just over seven minutes left to play, however, time ran out on the Tigers comeback bid.

“I do feel like we turned a corner in this match,” CCHS varsity boy’s head coach Brandon Gurganus said. “I think we finally understand the level of intensity, focus and execution that it takes to win at this level.”

In its next match on March 14 hosting Calera High School, CCHS turned that corner fully. Calera came into the match unbeaten, and with a 2-0 area record including a 6-2 win over the Tigers on Feb. 22 at home. The reverse fixture was inside Tiger Stadium, and the team came out playing fast, confident and inspired, according to Gurganus.

CCHS flipped the script on the slow starts that plagued them earlier in the season, and just 15 minutes into the game, Jorge Castillo played a through-ball over the Calera defense that Alex Morales got to before the Calera goalkeeper and pushed it home to put the Tigers on top. CCHS goalkeeper Mateo Hinojosa stood tall and firm in goal, stopping a penalty attempt in the first half to preserve the Tigers’ advantage at halftime.

As the match winded down with still the early Morales goal as the difference, the CCHS defense of Jesus Centeno, Barrett Martin, Alan Ortiz and Ignacio Peralta withstood a barrage of pressure from Calera as they sent everyone forward. In the end, the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Tigers earned their first area win of the season to move to 10-3-1 (1-2).

“This was a season and program defining win. The effort has been there all season, but this week the guys finally started executing at a high level and it showed in both matches, but especially against Calera,” Gurganus said. “The key now is to maintain that level of focus and intensity throughout the remainder of the season. I’m so proud of the way these guys have fought through adversity this season. This is a special group.”

The win did not come without some adversity as Elmore picked up an injury in the second half that will sideline him for several weeks, leaving an experienced hole in the midfield. Gurganus said Elmore’s absence will be significant with his leadership on the field, but hopes the team will come together to lift each other up. The varsity boys can claim at least second place in the area outright with a win over Benjamin Russell on April 11 and Calera on April 16.

The varsity girl’s team faced Benjamin Russell and Calera prior to the varsity boys on both days losing both games, falling to 4-8 on the season. Injuries have hampered the Tigers forcing young players into the fray, but the hope is the experience gained now will benefit them later this season and for next year.

CCHS soccer teams will be in action next on March 21 traveling to Montevallo High School beginning with the varsity girls at 5 p.m., and the varsity boys following after.