Leonard leads Westminster to State Championship game

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HUNTSVILLE – Heroes in the sports world carry clutch genes to keep seasons alive and propel teams to big wins in the biggest of moments.

For the Westminster at Oak Mountain boys soccer team that hero sported the number 26 on the back of a jersey rather than a cape. Junior midfielder Price Leonard was worth more than the price of admission into a Final Four matchup featuring the No. 1 Bayside Academy Admirals and No. 2 Westminster at Oak Mountain Knights at John Hunt Park in Huntsville on Thursday, May 10.

Tied 1-1 after Bayside had scored an equalizer with 23:04 to play in the game, it looked like the intense battle was headed to overtime, but Leonard had other ideas.

After a corner opportunity went awry with four minutes left to play, it seemed as if the Knights had squandered their last opportunity in the game, but with 2:31 left to play, Leonard broke loose up the field.

In a one-on-one situation with he and goalkeeper Ty Turner, Leonard waited until the perfect moment to fire a shot into the left side of the net to break the tie and give Westminster a 2-1 advantage with 2:31 to go.

Bayside ended up earning a free kick with 19 seconds to go, but airmailed the ball 20 feet over the goal for their last opportunity, as the Knights didn’t let Leonard’s clutch goal go to waste and locked up a spot in the state championship game.

That one goal would have been enough for Leonard, but he also gave the Knights the lead early in the second half after a hard-fought and scoreless first half.

With several opportunities for the speedy midfielder in the first half, it felt like it was just a matter of time before he beat his defender for a goal and that moment came 8:02 into the second half.

Leonard was able to break free up the left-hand side of the field before kicking a hard roller to the far post to put Westminster on top 1-0 with 31:51 to play.

It was a big moment in the game because after a very balanced first half, it seemed as if the Admirals were playing much better early in the second half yet the Knights were able to take the first lead.

For the next seven minutes, however, that pressure continued for Bayside as they wore down Westminster defensively.

With 23:04 to play, Rece Breadsley was able to break loose up the left side of the field. His defender was trailing slightly behind, but Breadsley kept his legs churning and eventually got right in front of the net before pushing an easy equalizer into the back of the net to tie things at 1-1.

That seemingly woke the Knights up over the final 20 minutes of the period, as they had the majority of the chances the remainder of the way.

One of those chances came on a clean break away from Matthew Krulak, who finished second on the team in shots on goal with four. Krulak waited a fraction of a second too late to kick the ball, which allowed the keeper to make a play on the ball and force Krulak to become tangled up.

Krulak’s chance and pressure throughout the game, however, were a sign of things to come as he and Leonard kept the Admirals’ defense on their heels before Leonard eventually ended things with his game-winning goal.

Brodie Winks also had a solid game in goal for Westminster making six saves and allowing just one goal.

The Knights now advance to the state championship on Friday, May 11, at 7 p.m. where they’ll take on West Morgan.