E.A. Sports Today

Holding it together

[corner-ad id=2]Faith senior Gattrell the ‘linchpin’ that keeps the Lions’ together

Faith senior midfielder Andrew Gattrell (18) marks an Altamont striker in an earlier playoff game. It's been said as Gattrell goes, so goes the Lions. (Photos by Tony Bedford).

Faith senior midfielder Andrew Gattrell (18) marks an Altamont striker in an earlier playoff game. It’s been said as Gattrell goes, so goes the Lions. (Photos by Tony Bedford).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The first time Andrew Gattrell heard coach Erik McDaniel describe his role on the Faith Christian soccer team he wasn’t too sure what to make of it.

In an attempt to get the player more focused in what had been a particularly apathetic practice, and therefore everyone else on the field, McDaniel called the senior center midfielder the “linchpin” of the team.

Gattrell was at first perplexed by the term, then after getting an explanation asked if the coach couldn’t give him a more ferocious-sounding nickname, something more fitting of his active playing style.

“At the time I didn’t understand,” Gattrell said, “but he explained it a little bit and I kind of understood what that meant.”

What McDaniel was trying to tell him was he’s the piece that holds the Lions together; as he goes, so goes their approach. It’s his role to clog up the middle and distribute the ball, and it will be a big job Thursday when Faith faces a mirror-like once-beaten Madison Academy team in the Class 1A-3A boys soccer semifinals in Huntsville.

The teams play at 2:30 p.m. at the John Hunt Park soccer complex. It’s the Lions’ first ever trip to the soccer Final Four.

It may be somewhat surprising that on a team with two dynamic scorers — Tyler Johnson and Josiah McDaniel — a rugged midfielder is the player who makes it all go. But it’s all a matter of temperament and Gattrell’s stirs the drink.

“There are times he shows up and his face is set like flint and he has resolve,” Erik McDaniel said. “And there are days he isn’t there; those are the days it’s a struggle for us.

“He sets the tone for us in work ethic and how intense everybody on the pitch is going to tackle. When he’s had enough, he just starts going in harder and that alerts other people I need to start tackling hard.”

With Gattrell plugging up the middle with Daniel Clark, Jordan Griswould and Ryan Crosby, the Lions would put their defense up against anyone in the state.

“It’s hard to go through the middle against us,” Crosby said. “Andrew is really big to the team; he doesn’t let anything come easy in the middle. If he’s playing well, the whole team is playing well. We just feed off Andrew.”

And now he has become a factor in the offense. In the Lions’ win over Fultondale Saturday, he scored their first goal off a corner kick and had the long assist on Johnson’s game-winner less than 30 seconds before the end of overtime.

There are plenty of examples where Gattrell’s presence has made the difference for the Lions, but it was perhaps never more evidenced than last year’s playoff win over Collinsville.

The Lions were down a goal and lost a man to a red card, but it was the way he took charge that got them through.

“Everyone put their heads down right away,” Gattrell recalled. “Coach said when I came off after we tied it of all the people who put their heads down you kept your head in the game and picked it up. You picked it up a gear, you went to the next level and they just fed off you. That whole attitude spread throughout the team and we all picked up the pace.”

That’s what linchpins do.

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