Oak Mountain’s Guffey leads Eagles to quarterfinals

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter 

VESTAVIA HILLS – The No. 2 Oak Mountain Eagles needed a once-in-a-lifetime shot from midfield and a penalty kick in the final minutes, but ended up escaping the No. 4 ranked Vestavia Hills Rebels with a thrilling 2-1 road victory Monday, April 29, to kick off the 2019 postseason.

“Just proud of the fact that they (Vestavia) knocked us out of the playoffs last year,” said Eagles’ head coach David DiPiazza. “So the guys really wanted this and it’s just remarkable how far we’ve come even since August. We knew we were this good, but it’s different when you step up when you have to.”

It was rough sledding for both teams in the early going as they struggled to give themselves good chances at the goal. It was a physical match, but the first half was particularly chippy with many scoring attempts cut down before they could fully develop.

The two clubs combined for just six shots before halftime with Vestavia recording four and putting two on goal. The Rebels moved the ball well showing prowess in their ball control and gave themselves a couple of free kicks within 30 yards, but couldn’t capitalize.

After the break it was anyone’s game, and Vestavia again looked to seize the momentum out of the gate. Building on their momentum from the first period, the Rebels began to rack up the shots inching closer and closer to finally breaking the scoreless tie.

They finally broke some room in the 60th minute, as Vestavia lined up a free kick near midfield. The ball soared into a compacted box and rolled to junior midfielder Tony Shaw, who quickly controlled the pass and rifled a short shot past the goalie into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead.

As the game seemed to shift almost entirely to the rebels, Oak Mountain’s Patrick Guffey had a trick up his sleeve. With Vestavia still riding the high of their go-ahead goal, Guffey blasted an unexpected shot from the kick off spot—60 yards from the goal.

His shot caught the whole rebel defense by surprise, but their goalie who was caught out of position as the ball arced and dropped behind him into top right corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

“I saw the keeper standing out and we had been talking about how he was weak in the air,” Guffey said. “I figured I’d test him and it paid off.”

“And this is not just ability, these guys are watching film,” DiPiazza added. “I gave them a binder full of scouting information on this game and this is a kid who pays attention, and when we needed a goal the most he thinks of stuff we’ve talked about and that’s just amazing.”

The goals served to spark both offenses as desperation began to seep in. The Eagles tripled their shots from the first half, while Vestavia took nine more shots themselves.

Neither team could budge the other, until the 78th minute, as Oak Mountain made a beautiful turn of a clearance which found a streaking Cody Wells. He took the pass nearly in stride and sent a rocket at the goal.

The shot was deflected, but on his attempt at the rebound, Wells was fouled.

Again, DiPiazza turned to Guffey as the fate of the season hung in the balance. As Guffey approached the ball he faked left, then right and came back left firing a nearly indefensible frozen rope into the corner of the net for the winning goal.

Oak Mountain goalkeeper Zay Brown faced a talented Rebels offense but made eight saves on Vestavia’s nine shots on goal, which was also key in addition to Guffey’s presence offensively.

“His presence, he’s vocal, he commands the box,” DiPiazza said of Brown. “He can distribute and, of course, can makes saves. Just incredible.”

Oak Mountain (16-7-1) has won six in a row versus in-state opponents and advances to the third round of the playoffs and face the winner of No. 1 Hoover and No. 8 Mountain Brook.