Looking ahead to the soccer postseason

Published 2:34 pm Friday, March 25, 2016

Austin Pack had led Indian Springs to a 15-1-2 record and the No. 1 ranking atop the 1A-3A standings. (File)

Austin Pack had led Indian Springs to a 15-1-2 record and the No. 1 ranking atop the 1A-3A standings. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

As of March 25, there were eight boys’ soccer teams from Shelby County ranked in the top 10 of their respective classifications, and four of those eight teams were included in the overall top-15 of the state regardless of classification. Six girls teams in the county were also ranked in their respective classes, and four of those were in the overall top-15 as well. That’s a very heavy concentration of talented soccer programs in one county.

With soccer playoffs just roughly a month away, let’s look into the crystal ball and speculate on which teams have the best chances to hoist a state title trophy at the end of the year. This week we’ll look at the five boys teams with the best chance to potentially bring home a title, and next week we’ll take a look at the girls.


1. Indian Springs

Is Indian Springs the best team in the county? No. The best team in the county, and the best team in the state, is Oak Mountain. However, this is a look at the teams with the best chances to bring home a state title, and by that qualifier Indian Springs is at the top of the list by a mile. Springs, the No. 1 1A-3A team in the state and No. 6 overall team in the state was 15-1-2 as of March 25, averaging a whopping five goals per game. This group is a well-oiled machine of destruction, led by senior Austin Pack and his 23 goals and 11 assists through just 18 games.

Springs routinely plays much larger schools and handles them with ease. Their only loss this season came in a 4-6 loss to 6A powerhouse Homewood, and they have beaten Thompson, Mountain Brook, Chelsea and Pelham so far this season. There’s not a 1A-3A team that, in all likelihood, will be able to stay with this bunch, and Springs has to be considered the front runner for the 1A-3A title.


2. Oak Mountain

The Eagles are the best team in the state and have been playing like it since opening day. Sporting an undefeated 15-0-2 record through 17 games, this Oak Mountain team is led by a veteran back line that has allowed just nine total goals to date. Hunter Holstad, Chandler and Christian Thomason and Brandon Kelley are the four senior defenders in front of senior goalie Ryan Dearman. All five were starters on last year’s 7A state title team, and it would be a tough job to find a back line anywhere in the state an opposing offense would want to see less in the postseason than this bunch.

The offense has taken some time to get clicking, as the Eagles averaged less than two goals per game over the first 10 games of the season, which was to be expected with an almost entirely new front line. The only reason Oak Mountain is not No. 1 on this list is because of the wealth of 7A competition. Vestavia and Hoover specifically are capable of beating anyone on a given day, and if the Eagles come out flat in the postseason, the possibility remains their season could end early. However, to be the champ you have to beat the champ, and until proven otherwise, this Oak Mountain team is the champ.


3. Helena

Helena is 7-4-2 and is the No. 1 team in the state currently in the 4A-5A classification. The Huskies four losses have come at the hands of Vestavia Hills, Spain Park and Oak Mountain twice, all of which are ranked in the 7A top five. In the Huskies’ first year as a program in 2015 they made an appearance in the 4A-5A Final Four before eventually falling to St. Paul’s. This year, Helena could very well surpass that first year team’s success.

The Huskies also play in a rather weak area with Calera, Montevallo and Jemison, none of which are even remotely on Helena’s skill level, leaving an easy path into the playoffs. With 16 seniors on the roster including stud keeper Phildon Dublin, Helena has both the firepower and potential path to make a push for a 4A-5A title before the Huskies bump up to 6A next season.


4. Briarwood

Briarwood is dropping down to the 4A-5A class next season with the reclassification update going into effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. In the Lions last year amongst the 6A ranks, they are currently 9-2-2 and sport a No. 5 ranking in the 6A class. Since starting the year 1-1-2, Briarwood is 8-0-1 over its last nine games and is averaging roughly four goals per game while giving up less than one over that same span. The Lions are a talented bunch, peaking at the right time, but will have to get past current 6A No. 1 Homewood early in the playoffs for a chance to advance deep into the playoffs.


5. Spain Park

The Jaguars are currently the No. 5 team in the state in 7A with a 9-5-2 record. The losses Spain Park has suffered have come to Enterprise, currently undefeated and the No. 2 team in the class, Oak Mountain twice, Vestavia and Thompson. Thompson is at a supreme disadvantage here because only two teams from each area advance to the playoffs, and the Warriors are in the same area with Oak Mountain and Hoover. Spain Park has Vestavia in its area, but will most likely get into the playoffs ahead of Mountain Brook and Hewitt-Trussville. The Jags fell to Vestavia 1-0 and Oak Mountain 3-2 earlier in the year, and are capable of playing with the top teams in the state. If Spain Park can get hot at the right time, the Jags could capture some magic in the postseason, crazier things have happened.