Westminster boys soccer team wins 2018 State Championship
By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter
HUNTSVILE – Christian Adkins’ road to prominence is littered with state titles. First as a player, then as an assistant coach.
It was only fitting that his first crack at a state championship as a head coach would come in his first full year at the helm for the Westminster at Oak Mountain Knights (23-2-1), as they captured the Class 1A-3A boys soccer state championship on Friday, May 11, by a final score of 2-0 over West Morgan.
“First year overall, I don’t know if that means anything. It’s really just a testament to those guys,” Adkins said, eyeing his team. “They worked their tails off and I’ve been running them since Jan. 1.”
The championship pitted two different styles against each other as the Knights’ physical style of play was countered by the finesse of the West Morgan Rebels, and the two squads battled hard–particularly in the first half.
Both teams challenged the opposing defenses early and often reaching double digit shots and putting five shots on goal each.
The Knights and Rebels also had three corner kicks apiece and with chances a plenty making a goal was just a matter of time.
Speedy junior Price Leonard stayed on the attack much of the half after scoring two goals in the Knights’ semifinal win, but his aggression soon opened up opportunities for his younger teammates in a big way.
In the 31st minute, Leonard found sophomore John Richardson streaking down the left side on the fast break.
Richardson dribbled inside the box nearly to the end line before lifting a perfect cross over Rebel goalie Jake Owens and onto the waiting forehead of eighth grader Houston Likens, who headed the pass into the open goal for a 1-0 lead.
“I tell him don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, go out there and do your thing and if your thing is to score a goal, if that’s what you’re meant to do then you’re going to score,” Adkins said. “I’m glad he got on the end of it. It was really our first good series of play for the game with five or six passes. As soon as he came off the field I was jumping on him, just happy for him more than anything else.”
The Knights’ persistence on offense translated to the defensive side of the ball after halftime. Westminster’s length and athleticism began to wear on West Morgan, as the dribbling and passes became less and less crisp.
The Rebels didn’t record a shot until 10 minutes into the second half. The Knights, on the other hand, stayed consistent with their offensive onslaught putting up another nine shots and increased their accuracy putting seven of those on goal.
Westminster at Oak Mountain iced things for good in the 59th minute as midfielder Matt Wilson dribbled to his left across the top of the box, got the angle and fired a rocket across his body and into the right corner of the net for the game’s final score.
Westminster goalie Brodie Winks was aggressive the entire night fighting off Rebel players for the ball in the box on multiple occasions. The junior recorded eight saves in the shutout win.
Price Leonard took MVP honors, and even though he didn’t find the net in the championship game, Adkins spoke about how the midfielder’s relentless play has shown all season.
“He’s one of our best players and I think it shows. He’s skillful, he’s fast and the fittest guy on our team. He wins every sprint,” Adkins said. “But his determination to continuously just berate teams and to work hard to get past and beyond is unbelievable and that style of play opens things up for his teammates even when he doesn’t score.”
The future looks bright for the Knights, as their young coach played six eighth graders during the season and will only lose one of his players to graduation.
As Adkins walked back to his team the players chanted, “Shave the beard, shave the beard!” For perspective, Adkins will turn 25 years old in August. Apparently, he doesn’t look young enough.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com
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