Lucky number 7: Oak Mountain wins 7th state championship, 3rd in a row
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
HUNTSVILLE – Coming into Oak Mountain’s state championship game against Davidson on Saturday, May 13, you had heard many of the Eagles’ stars such as Jackson Murphy and Kennedy Davis who had helped bring the school three straight state championships, but the name Xavier Brown may not sound as familiar to you.
Just a sophomore, the athletic goalkeeper was the unsung hero of a state championship game that rested heavily on his shoulders as the game headed to PKs after a 1-1 deadlock at the end of regulation and both overtimes.
“I just tried to pump them up,” DeMasters said of his speech going into PKs. “I told Zay to be superman and knew he was going to save one because he’s so long and athletic. I told him if you can get a read then lay out because you’ll save it.”
After a coin toss, Davidson was the team kicking first and stepped to the line, but the Warriors’ player sent the kick high to give the Eagles an advantage from the start. Charles Jeter stepped to the marker and took Oak Mountain’s first PK and buried in the left corner.
This is when Brown stepped up to make some senior-like plays on the biggest stage of Alabama high school soccer as just a sophomore.
On Davidson’s second penalty kick, he laid out to make an incredible save, which gave the Eagles a great chance to play from in front. With a 1-0 PK lead, Clay Holstad stepped up and buried another goal in the left corner to put Oak Mountain up 2-0.
Brown stepped back to the line and looking like a veteran that had made these saves with ease his entire life, he laid out to the right and stopped Davidson’s third kick putting the Eagles one goal away from a state championship.
Who else, but Kennedy Davis would step to the line in that situation. The heralded senior loves the moment and no doubt wanted to be the one to grab the game-winning goal which he did with ease to give himself and Oak Mountain its third straight state championship.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” the selfless Brown said holding back tears. “I mean they’ve had this going for a while and I just got here this year so it’s just special that I could finish it out for the seniors here.”
In that moment of standing there waiting for a kick from 10 yards away to come right at him, he wasn’t thinking about himself or looking good. He was instead thinking solely about the team that had made it to the state championship.
“I was just thinking about my players and my coaches, I just wanted to contribute and do it for them,” Brown said.
To make things even more spectacular, he is just used in these special circumstances when his coach calls on him and had sat on the bench for the majority of the game while Matthew Hazelwood played in net, but Brown looked more than prepared in the most critical sports moment of his life.
“Coach has always told me that when my name is called I need to be ready so I’m always ready whenever my name is called,” Brown said. “That’s something we practice that every day so it wasn’t anything new to us.”
As for regulation, it can be summed up by two words, missed opportunities. Oak Mountain dominated ball control from the very beginning of the game and junior Jackson Murphy picked up right where he left off in the semifinals scoring 5:41 into the game after breaking away up the middle of the field before firing one into the back of the net.
It’s what happened after that first goal throughout the rest of the game that was unbelievable. Up until the final few minutes of the game, the Eagles had drawn several corner opportunities, which led to them hitting the goalkeeper’s fingertips on multiple occasions and even the cross and side bar four different times, but they just couldn’t get one to inch in.
Fast forward to two minutes left in the game with the Eagles still up 1-0. Davidson had turned up the pressure as they were looking to tie the game up, which led to a free kick from around 40 yards out. The Warriors’ player took the kick and bent it beautiful over the outstretched hands of Hazelwood to tie the game up and deny the regulation win for Oak Mountain.
After dominating a game where they could have easily had four or five more goals, Davidson had somehow battled hard enough to force overtime.
“Getting scored on with two minutes left is a tough thing to handle,” DeMasters said. “I just told them the two overtimes would be like a battle and we needed to stay composed.”
In the end it didn’t matter as Brown stepped up in PKs and the three offensive leaders put home goals to lead the Eagles to their third straight title and seventh in the last 12 years.
“This group of seniors was kind of the first full class that I coached since I’ve been here four years now,” DeMasters said. “This group of seniors I’ve had from their freshman year to now so to see them grow from what they were to now, that’s why I coach. I want to give them these kind of memories.”
DeMasters went on to say the storied season is now over so he and his guys can talk about the three-peat before ending with a chuckle and saying, “I guess we’ll try for four next year.”
More photo at www.shelbycountyphotos.com
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