‘They made history’: Calera’s historic season ends in first Final Four appearance

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HUNTSVILLE – Walking across the field after a 5-0 loss to Montgomery Academy in the semifinals of the Class 6A playoffs on Thursday, May 11 at John Hunt Park, it sounded like the Calera Eagles had won the game with the reaction they got from their crowd.

For the Calera fan base and players, it was a heartbreaking end to the season, but it also brought a moment of realization at the history this year’s group made by reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history.

“I couldn’t be more happy for the city,” Calera head coach Landon Gaskins said after the loss. “It’s a great accomplishment from the ground up. It’s a tough way to go out, it’s a little sore right now for the guys, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.”

Despite the 5-0 loss, it was the history that brought the fans to their feet after with a loud roar across the field, while Gaskins approached each of his players to help them realize what they had accomplished.

“It’s obviously a special group,” he said. “They made history and they deserve to be here. Every single one of them, including the seniors, are leaving a legacy for this program for the future. I couldn’t be more proud of what the guys did this year.”

The first 28 minutes of the game saw a back-and-forth battle between the two teams with Calera earning a strong look after a drive up the field with 12:30 left was deflected out of play and led to a corner kick.

The corner kick ended up missing, and from there, Montgomery Academy controlled the ball the rest of the half.

They ended up scoring two goals in the final 8:20 of the first half thanks to great ball movement into the box on both occasions. They also had a third goal called off on a corner header due to a player climbing the back of a Calera defender.

Still, Montgomery Academy took a 2-0 lead into the break.

Needing a quick goal to start the second half to get back within a goal, the opposite happened for Calera, as Montgomery Academy scored within the first 40 seconds to extend the lead to 3-0.

That hole became too deep for Calera to climb out of, as two more second-half goals put away a 5-0 victory for Montgomery Academy.

The Eagles did earn a corner in the final 15 seconds that narrowly led to a goal, showing no quit, but it was ultimately cleared before time ran out.

The focus after, however, was on the future and what this year’s team did to set a new standard.

“It’s no longer the ceiling,” Gaskins said. “Before, it was just talked about as a myth almost to get to state, to make it there. These guys are going to take experience with them to the next guys and leave it below them and it’s no longer something we have to be shocked about when we get here. It’s something we’re just ready to do from here on out.”

Gaskins added that this year’s senior class will go down in history and that is something they should be proud of.

“We really focused on the seniors and how this is the last time this group is going to play together no matter what and they have to keep their heads up,” Gaskins said of his post-game huddle with the players. “Whether it’s taking it to work after this, to playing college soccer, to ninth grade or 10th grade, learn from this season, take what this experience has given you and keep going. All year, we accomplished a goal and we set a new one. Now, that carries over into next season.”