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Soccer program kicks off at Russellville

In seventh grade a young Trey Stanford was part of the first-ever soccer program at West Limestone High School. Now he’ll be part of another inaugural program – as coach at Russellville High School.

Stanford will lead the boys’ and girls’ teams as RHS adds soccer to its athletic programming. Already, Stanford said, excitement is building as people predict the championships RHS soccer will bring home to Russellville. “Our expectation,” Stanford said, “is to win.”

But Stanford said his fledgling teams will face a challenge on the field, no doubt.

“We’re going to play some very good talent this year on our schedule,” he said, pegging East and West Limestone, as well as Tanner, as programs to be reckoned with.

Varsity action kicks off Feb. 14 with an away game versus Tanner. The teams’ first home field action will be versus Haleyville Feb. 16. The first region match-up will be against Ardmore Feb. 23.

Stanford said expectations are rightfully high for a talented boys team.

“They have a chance to be very good,” Stanford said. “You can tell they have played soccer their whole lives, since they were little. They love the game with every ounce of their bodies.”

Students in 9th-12th grades make up the team, with 20 boys on the roster following tryouts before Christmas break.

Andy Alonzo will be a power player for the first-year team.

“He’s extremely talented footwork-wise and has good speed,” Stanford said. “He’s got good decision-making on offense.”

Daniel Carranza is “very talented and a very smart player. He always seems to know where to be around the ball and always has that instinct.” Marvin Betancourt, a crossover from the gridiron, “is an absolutely outstanding soccer player.” Defensive stars Samuel and Jorge Bahena, Andy Alvarez and goalkeeper Jesus Betancourt are also going to be key for Golden Tiger soccer. Kevin Salgado will be a difference-maker at defensive back.

But even while naming these standouts, Stanford said what happens on the field in those first few games will really show who his star players are on the newly-minted team that is oozing talent and drive.

Stanford said he also has eager girls team.

“They’re coming on quick,” Stanford said. “We’re going to have some growing pains – it’s going to be tough right now – and they know that, and they’re working extremely hard.”

He said the girls are bringing a lot of excitement on the field. “They’re up to the challenge.”

Players to lean on will be Carmen Perez, Juana Juarez, Zayra and Giselle Perez and Priscilla Bahena on offense, plus keepers Briana Ramirez and Cecilia Andres and Jackie and Esmeralda Tristan on defense.

“We’re excited to be able to get this going,” said RCS athletic director Mark Heaton. “It’s something we have anticipated for awhile. I’m very thankful to the superintendent and board of education, allowing us to start this program. The community is excited, and the kids are excited.

Heaton praised Stanford for “a phenomenal job of getting this up and going.” He said RCS is in the process of lining up some assistant coaches and/or community volunteers to help out with the program, and then the next steps will be establishing soccer at the JV and middle school levels. “I think that will happen pretty quick. The biggest thing is going to be getting coaches that are qualified to run these programs, and that will just be a matter of time.”

Stanford was an assistant girls’ soccer coach at Mars Hill Bible School with Troy Rogers while in college at UNA and at East Limestone with Brad Carlisle after graduation.

He has also coached at Twiggs County High in South Georgia (assistant football); Jefferson County in Georgia (establishing a middle school soccer program); and at South Central High in Georgia (head JV baseball coach and football assistant coach/offensive coordinator).

Stanford said he maintains a high intensity during practice but aims to be more laidback during games, placing importance on not over-coaching. He said he knows his teams can exhibit the Golden Tiger tradition of excellence on the field.

“This will always be remembered as the first team. This team will always be talked about,” Stanford said. “I want them to get on the field and be successful right off the bat. They know that’s expected at Russellville.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to be a successful program.”

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