Calera headed to first Final Four in school history after McAdory reports rules violation

Published 10:36 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

CALERA – It couldn’t have happened in an anymore unique way, but the Calera boys soccer team has earned its way into the history books.

After powering their way by Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and Northridge in the first two rounds of the Class 6A playoffs, the Eagles were set to take on McAdory in the quarterfinals on Thursday, May 4, but a drastic change not only gave the Eagles a win without taking the field, but it punched their ticket to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

The Yellow Jackets self-reported a violation after beating two Shelby County teams by one goal in the opening two rounds of the Class 6A playoffs—a 6-5 win against Indian Springs and a 1-0 win against Pelham.

McAdory admitted to playing three athletes who participated in a local outside soccer league throughout the 2023 season, while also participating in 19 games for the Jackets.

The AHSAA rule states that any student who is a member of any school athletic team may not participate practice on a non-school team in the same sport during the school season of that sport, including practices.

Since McAdory violated that rule, Calera advanced to the Final Four.

Calera head coach Landon Gaskins said he and his team are excited for the opportunity, and they have more than earned the right to compete in their first Final Four.

“We are excited about the challenge of the Final Four,” he said. “We were ready to compete with whoever was next up and we are going to continue with that mentality. We are just taking it one game at a time and enjoying the process of getting better week in and week out. It is all a part of the mindset we have been working towards this season.”

Gaskins, who played in two Final Fours as a player locally at Helena High School, said the team has done a great job of staying in the moment, while also setting new goals throughout the season with each passing moment.

“I have told the team each time we reach a goal, we need to set a greater and more ambitious goal,” he said. “I have stressed the importance of this in sports and in life. There is no ‘making it.’ Life is a constant battle of ups and downs and is never stagnant. This was a big talking point within the team after we were crowned Area Champions.”

That area championship was the first in a stretch of historic moments for the Eagles, who are now 14-3-1 after the forfeit win against McAdory and off to their first Final Four in school history.

Calera finished area play 4-0 this season, claiming the area championship in a thrilling 1-0 win over Benjamin Russell. Since then, the Eagles have continued their win streak to nine in a row after starting the playoffs with a 1-0 shutout of Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and a 4-2 win against No. 9 Northridge.

The Eagles have given up two goals or less in all but one of their 18 games this season and one goal or less in 13 of 18, while the defense has posted 10 shutouts, including five in the last six games.

Gaskins said his experience as a player in the Final Four is something he will use to get his team prepare, as they’ll take either No. 4 Montgomery Academy or Theodore on May 11 at 1 p.m. in Huntsville.

“I am working with the team to make sure we are prepared,” he said. “In 2015, our team was just excited to be in Huntsville and ended up getting out in the semifinal. The next year we came back as a team ready to compete and we ended up as state champions that year. I am making sure our team is not just happy to be there, but that we are happy to compete.”

The Eagles will now hope to take the historic stretch even further with the school’s first state championship.