Chelsea boys headed to 2nd round

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

CHELSEA – With six of their 10 losses this season coming by one goal to ranked opponents, the Chelsea Hornets have been on the verge of being a championship-level team, and now that the postseason is here, they’re hoping they can put it all together for a deep run to the Final Four in Huntsville.

On Friday, April 26, the Hornets started step one of that trek off on a high note thanks to a 5-0 shutout victory over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs in front of the home crowd.

Chelsea came out looking to attack offensively and scored four of its five goals in the first half to give the team some cushion, which became more than comfortable for a defense that never gave up a good look to the Patriots other than two deep free kicks.

While the Hornets got three shots on goal in the first five minutes, it wasn’t until captain Lando Nichols earned a penalty kick thanks to a foul in the box that they were able to strike.

He stepped up to take the penalty shot, and easily buried the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Chelsea lead seven minutes into the game.

Less than a minute later, Tony Nettuno found the ball and quickly got in the box where he ripped a shot right at the keeper. The goalie was forced to make a spectacular save, but after getting the ball back, turning around and moving a few feet to his right, Nettuno fired a second shot into the far right side of the goal with no keeper home to put the Hornets on top 2-0.

There was a lull in scoring after that goal, but close to 16 minutes later, Andrew Messier broke through two defenders close to 35 yards from the goal. After clearing both defenders, he used his speed to go straight into the goalie box, where he eventually slid the ball past the keeper and into the back of net for a 3-0 advantage.

Over the next several minutes, eighth grader Santi Waites got several opportunities. His shots were ripped, but hit the keeper’s hands every time, while one hit the side bar.

After he and Nettuno hit the side bar and cross bar, respectively, Waites finally saw a shot beat the keeper after ripping one to put the Hornets on top 4-0, which became the halftime score.

Chelsea came out and added one more goal to that total when Chris Nettuno took a beautifully assisted pass lobbed over the defense, which allowed him to get the ball on the run. He sprinted up the left side of the field and eventually fired toward the far post to put the Hornets on top 5-0.

The rest of the game, Chelsea relied on a heavy defensive presence, never allowing the Patriots to get any penetration into the Hornets’ zone.

Chelsea will now take on Pelham for the third time this season in the second round of the playoffs at home on Tuesday, April 30. The last two games have been one-goal wins for the Hornets, showing this third matchup for a spot in the quarterfinals could go either way.