Tigers win 1st Morgan County title
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A save by goalkeeper Brad Galloway in overtime propelled Hartselle's Tigers to a 3-2 upset win over Austin's Black Bears in the final game of the Morgan County Soccer Tournament at Brewer High School April 25. The win avenged an earlier 3-1 loss to the Black Bears in pool play and gave the Tigers their first county soccer championship.
Galloway's save climaxed a shootout involving five kickers from each team. Each was given the opportunity to convert a penalty kick. Nine of the 10 players, five for Hartselle and four for Austin, converted their kicks into goals with ease. But that changed when Austin's fifth kicker, Trey Garrison, stepped up to the line. His kick, a hard, low liner, was rejected by Galloway after it slammed into his outstretched hands. He was immediately swarmed under by his teammates and later hoisted on their shoulders and carried to centerfield, where the trophy presentation took place.
"It was a great year for us," said Hartselle head coach Darrell Harris as his players received congratulatory hugs and handshakes from family members and fans. "It's exactly what we needed after getting knocked out of contention for the state playoffs."
The Tigers finished area competition in third place and came out of the tournament with a 10-9 record. They ended their season against Mars Hill on April 17. Austin also wound up in third place in its area and missed the playoffs. With one game remaining, its record was 12-10-2.
"We finally got all of our starters back and it was great to be able to play Austin again and come out on top." added Harris. "I thought we played better in the second half than we did in the first. You have to give Austin credit. They're a good team."
Austin scored first on an assist by Tomo Matsuo that led to a header by Ty Westendorf with 21:39 left in the game.
However, the momentum turned in Hartselle's favor after the center official called three major fouls in the final 10 minutes of the contest.
One of the fouls, a pushing infraction inside the penalty box, gave Hartselle's Nikolas Gajardo an opportunity to tie the score. His penalty kick sailed past Austin's goalkeeper to knot the score at 1-1 with 10:32 left in regulation.
The junior midfielder was handed another scoring opportunity six minutes later when Austin was tagged with a holding penalty. His kick again eluded the goalkeeper and Hartselle took a 2-1 lead with 4:12 left to play.
Controversy erupted after an Austin player and the head coach, Lewis White, challenged the penalty call. The player received a red flag from the center official for using foul language directed at the official and was thrown out of the game. The coach was red-flagged a couple of minutes later and ejected after he threatened to remove his team from the field and backed up what his player had said to the official.
Austin came back to tie the game at 2-2 on a penalty kick by Matsuo with 1:43 left in regulation.
Five Hartselle players were named to the all-tournament team. They were Aslan Davis, Nikolas Gajardo, Brad Galloway, Marcello Coutinho and Mike Walker.
Galloway was named "Most Valuable Player" of the tournament and Harris was honored as "Coach of the Year."
The Tigers entered the tournament's championship game after defeating Muscle Shoals 2-1 on the road the previous night. Burleson and Gajardo each scored a goal in the win.