E.A. Sports Today

Faith reaches final in shootout

[corner-ad id=2]McCord stops Madison Academy’s final attempt to preserve Lions’ victory

Faith keeper Caleb McCord smothers Madison Academy's final penalty kick to preserve the Lions' victory. On the cover McCord makes his move on the shot. (All photos by Tony Bedford)

Faith keeper Caleb McCord smothers Madison Academy’s final penalty kick to preserve the Lions’ victory. On the cover McCord makes his move on the shot. (All photos by Tony Bedford)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HUNTSVILLE — Erik McDaniel has never been a big fan of penalty kicks deciding big soccer games, but the Faith Christian coach might start rethinking that position after Thursday.

The Lions advanced to their first-ever state championship final Thursday when junior keeper Caleb McCord stopped Madison Academy’s final penalty kick to preserve a 3-2 win that sends the Lions to the 1A-3A state title game Friday night.

They will play top-ranked Westminster-Oak Mountain at 8:30 p.m. at the John Hunt Soccer Complex

The Lions (13-2) won the penalty kick shootout 4-3 after the Mustangs (17-2) forced overtime with a goal 5:15 before the end of regulation.

Sure, the Lions got the best of the shootout his time, but that doesn’t mean McDaniel favors it any more than before.

“I don’t change it at all; that’s heartbreaking,” he said. “Poor Madison. It takes (going) so hard the whole match for it to be decided by a kick 12 yards away.

“You run, you endure all the things to end in penalties? It’s just so heartbreaking.”

Still, he knew the possibility existed the game would come down to PKs and he prepared accordingly so the Lions were ready when the shootout came after 90 minutes of dead-even soccer.

“When we knew we were coming here we knew we must be better at what we do than what they do,” McDaniel said. “We must be better, so we practiced penalties.

“And right before we went out there, I said this is who we are, you have to be better at penalties than they are. And they did. For Caleb, I told him just give us a chance. All I ever ask is you save you. He said, how about if I save two?”

McCord said he didn’t feel very confident going into the shootout because he didn’t think he had played well, but he was determined to uphold his end for the team’s seniors.

He calmed himself prior to the shootout with a little quiet time in a shady area away from the bench before going to the goal.

He stopped Madison Academy’s Alexander Ikard in the third round to keep the Mustangs from taking the lead. Andrew Gattrell and Madison Academy’s Michael Worley swapped goals in the fourth position to make it 3-3.

In Round 5, Josiah McDaniel went top right shelf to give Faith the lead. McCord was either going to make the stop to win it or the shootout would go mano-a-mano.

McCord took a bullet to the midsection from Nathan Geis to seal the victory.

“I saw him looking to my left twice and then to my right; I knew he was trying to throw me off because that’s what they were all doing,” McCord said. “I just laid out hoping that’s where it went. It hit my glove. I stood up and it was done.”

Teammate McDaniel said there’s a lesson to be learned there.

“Never look the keeper in the eye,” he said.

McDaniel said he was confident McCord would make the save if he scored the go-ahead goal, just as McCord knew McDaniel would score.

Tyler Johnson scored both Faith goals in regulation. Johnson fought through asthma and stomach pain throughout the match — coming off twice — but made two long runs down what the Lions identified early as a weak left side to score two first-half goals.

Both teams had good chances to score in the second half. Jordan Griswould and Johnson both missed chances inside the box midway through the half. Madison Academy appeared to get the tying goal a few minutes earlier, but Matthew Geis’ shot hit the underside of the crossbar and McCord was able to clear it from harm’s way.

“I heard it hit the bar and was scared it went in,” McCord said. “You’ve just got to be thankful the crossbar is there.”

The Mustangs did tie it late in the half when Andrew Cash got a piece of Jacob Williams’ free kick and slipped it past McCord who admitted he came out a little too far off his line.

The match got off to a balky start for the Lions. Thirty seconds into the match the Mustangs bench alerted the officials of the three green stripes that embossed the Lions’ socks.

Federation rules dictate plain white socks for the match — although the Lions had been wearing the socks all year and the officials said nothing prior to the match. The Lions were hit with a yellow card and the match continued.

McDaniel planned to go shopping for plain green socks for the entire squad prior to Friday’s title match.

Westminster (15-1-2) earned its spot in the final with a 4-0 win over Bayside Academy (14-3-4). The Knights scored four goals in the final 30 minutes.

Tyler Johnson (7) and three Madison Academy defenders watch the Faith striker's second goal settle into the back of the net.

Tyler Johnson (7) and three Madison Academy defenders watch the Faith striker’s second goal settle into the back of the net.

Faith 3, Madison Academy 2 (SO)

Madison Academy 1 1 0 0 (3) — 2
Faith Christian 2 0 0 0 (4) — 3


First half — Faith, Tyler Johnson (unassisted), 11:15; Madison, Nathan Geis (Ryan Pollard), 15:28; Faith, Tyler Johnson (unassisted), 35:19.

Second half — Madison, Andrew Cash (Jacob Williams), 74:45.

Shootout — Faith: Ryan Crosby (goal), Tyler Johnson (goal), Jordan Griswould (wide right), Andrew Gattrell (goal), Josiah McDaniel (goal). Madison Academy: Ryan Pollard (goal), Matthew Geis (goal), Alexander Ikard (save), Michael Worley (goal), Nathan Geis (save).

Shots (on goal) — Faith 13 (3), Madison Academy 13 (6).

Saves — Noah Harrison, Madison 1; Caleb McCord, Faith 4.

Yellow Cards — Faith bench (uniform conformity); Andrew Bates, Madison (unsportsmanlike); Jameson Adams, Faith (technical foul); Nathan Bedford, Faith (unsportsmanlike); John Debro, Madison (unsportsmanlike).

Andrew Gattrell makes a play on Madison Academy's Ryan Pollard (7) right in front of Faith coach Erik McDaniel.

Andrew Gattrell makes a play on Madison Academy’s Ryan Pollard (7) right in front of Faith coach Erik McDaniel.

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