Eagles edge Chelsea in tournament opener

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Chelsea High School boys’ soccer team gave top-ranked Oak Mountain all it wanted in the opening game of the Birmingham Metro tournament March 27.

The game started with Oak Mountain going quickly on the attack, but Chelsea’s defense proved tough enough to deny any decent opportunity. Chelsea took several opportunities on the quick counter attack and finally took a stunning early lead when Will Bevill took a shot that hit the cross bar and came off to Noah Weaver who played a quick pass to an open Shelton Smith who punched in the easy goal. Chelsea, perhaps inspired by the early lead, continued to attack, and several minutes later, Smith took advantage of an Oak Mountain defensive error, making a steal inside the Eagle’s box and sticking a firm left footer into the goal, giving Chelsea a 2-0 lead about midway through the first half.

As the half wore on, Oak Mountain turned up its attack, and Chelsea sunk back on the defensive and tried to hang on as Oak Mountain created several dangerous opportunites. The Chelsea defense again proved worthy of the challenge as they held on for the 2-0 halftime lead.

The second half began with both sides exchanging advances that ended up producing nothing. However, with 22 mintes left, Oak Mountain attacker Brandt Mace got free on the left side of Chelsea’s box and hit a hard shot to the near post corner past the outstretched Chelsea keeper Josh Carpenter, and Oak Mountain had cut the lead to one.

Chelsea answered only two minutes later, as Carpenter came up just shy of midfield to take a free kick. He dropped the long hard kick right into the middle of Oak Mountain’s box and Chelsea midfielder Eric King re-directed the ball with his head and left it in the bottom left corner of the net, and Chelsea went up 3-1 with 20 minutes left.

With the feeling of upset in the air, Oak Mountain turned up its intensity in its attack. with about 15 minutes left, an Oak Mountain midfielder took a hard shot toward the left side of the goal but Carpenter make a diving save, knocking the ball out to the top ofhe box where Oak Mountain attacker Patrick Carroll gathered the ball and stuck it into the right side netting, making the score 3-2.

Chelsea continued to play a pressuring defense, but Oak Mountain was finding space that didn’t seem avaible earlier. with 10 minutes left, Mace found himself with space at the left top of the Chelsea box, where he ripped an amazing shot to the back post where it clanked abruptly off the postand took the favorable bounce into the goal. So, for the first time since early on, the score was level at 3-3.

Oak Mountain showed why they are the defending Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A champions, as they fought in the final minutes to get Gray Johnston the ball on the right baseline. He made space and delivered a cross to Carroll who took a touch and poked in the game-winner for the Eagles, 4-3.

“We’re not into moral victories, but you have to give Oak Mountain credit,” said Chelsea coach Lee Miller. “We played our gameplan perfectly, and forced them to have to make tough plays to beat us, and they did. We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the win, or even the draw, but as a coach, I’m glad for the lesson for my young team. I can see our guys starting to mature. It’s tough to lose these close games late, but I know we will eventually benefit from these experiences. I just hope we can recover and fight again tomorrow night against another tough 6A rival in Thompson.”