County has 14 soccer teams ranked in preseason standings

Published 11:52 am Monday, January 30, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Following a 2022 season in which 13 teams from Shelby County advanced to the playoffs, the 2023 is going to open with as much promise after 14 local teams found their way into the top 10 of their respective classification’s rankings.

Last season, not only did 13 make the playoffs between local boys and girls teams, but 10 advanced to the second round, eight made it to the quarterfinals, seven played in the Final Four, five played for state championships and three won a state title.

Now, seven boys teams and seven girls teams will enter the season looking to claim a championship at the end of the 2023 season.

Entering this season, Spain Park’s girls and Indian Springs’ boys and girls will be defending championships and all three are highly ranked entering this season.

All three will begin the season inside the top five of their classification’s rankings with Spain Park the highest ranked of the three.

The Jags, however, aren’t the No. 1 team in Class 7A.

That ranking belongs to county foe and rival Oak Mountain.

The Eagles were ranked atop the 7A standings for most of last year until the Jags knocked them off 1-0 in the opening round on their way to an incredible state championship run.

Both teams, however, enter this season plenty motivated with a ton of talent returning, giving them the top two spots in the 7A standings with Oak Mountain at No. 1 and Spain Park at No. 2.

This year, they are also in the same area, which should create for an incredible battle for the area title.

They are the only two ranked in the top 10 of the 7A girls standings, but all four of the county’s Class 6A teams are ranked entering the season.

Briarwood, who enters the season with a load of returning talent, is the highest ranked 6A girls team at No. 4.

Just behind the Lions, however, is defending state champ Indian Springs. Springs will jump up into the 6A classification after winning the 4A-5A title last year, but they also join an area that not only features Briarwood, Pelham and Helena as well.

Both of those teams are also ranked heading into the season with Pelham at No. 8 and Helena at No. 9. Those two both made it to at least the second round of the playoffs last year after battling for the area championship, now, they’ll be part of arguably the most difficult area in the state.

Beyond those teams, there is one other team ranked No. 1 heading into the season—the Westminster at Oak Mountain Knights.

The Knights made it to the Final Four last year and return several of their stars this year, which makes them a seeming favorite to win this year’s championship in the 1A-3A classification.

Similar to the girls standings, there are seven boys teams highly ranked entering the season, including one at No. 1 and all four in 6A.

The Oak Mountain Eagles will enter the season at No. 1 after a strong run a season ago that saw them fall short in the state championship game.

This year, they return most of their stars from an 18-5-5 season that featured one of the state’s most dominant defenses.

In addition to the Eagles, Thompson is ranked No. 8 entering the 2023 season after a special run back to the playoffs for the first time in several years a season ago.

Thompson finished last year 12-8-4 overall, but the Warriors dropped four in a row to end the season, including a 6-3 loss to Vestavia Hills to open the playoffs. This year, they’ll be in a difficult area once again, but they should have a strong chance at making it back-to-back trips to the postseason.

In the 6A classification, the Pelham Panthers are fresh off another trip to the state championship game a year ago. They lost that game 2-1 to Mountain Brook in a valiant effort, and they’ll enter the season No. 2 just behind the Spartans with plenty of talent returning.

The area, however, will be as challenging as it has been in years for the Panthers this year with No. 5 Indian Springs, No. 6 Briarwood and No. 9 Helena all vying for big seasons.

Springs is up a classification after winning last year’s 4A-5A title, while Briarwood returns the majority of its talent with a new head coach and Helena will also be sound after another special year and quarterfinal trip last season.

The final boys team ranked is Westminster at Oak Mountain, and while the Knights aren’t No. 1 like the girls, they’re just one spot down at No. 2 entering the season with their sight set on a championship run.