Russellville boys defeat Florence in soccer thriller

Another chapter in the boys varsity soccer rivalry between the Russellville Golden Tigers and the Florence Falcons has been entered into the history book – and again, it was a thriller.

The Class 4A-5A sixth-ranked RHS team hosted and defeated the 7A No. 12-ranked Florence squad by a 2-1 score in front of a big crowd.

Florence looked to take an early lead five minutes into the contest, but a Falcon was ruled out of bounds well before the ball was kicked into the net. The speedy Russellville team officially got on the scoreboard with 22:34 remaining in the 40-minute first half when Orlando Jimenez scored a goal.

Russellville controlled possession of the ball during the opening half and play on the Florence defensive end of the field, putting pressure on the Falcons. The two teams went into the halftime break with the Golden Tigers holding a 1-0 advantage to set up a competitive second half.

The final 40 minutes featured a few scoring chances, and emotions ran high between the rival programs that hold a healthy respect for each other.

FHS evened the score with 8:48 remaining in the contest on a direct kick goal.

Twenty-five seconds later, Russellville’s Vicente Machic was lined up one-on-one with the Florence goal keeper for a penalty kick. The first try by Machic found the back of the net, but the try was disallowed. Then, on the do-over, Machic scored, and this time it counted for what turned out to be the game-winning goal for RHS, as Golden Tiger goal keeper Luis Salgado kept the score at 2-1 the rest of the way.

“It doesn’t matter how good anyone is; it is always a battle,” said Russellville head coach Trey Stanford about the soccer rivalry with Florence. “When we get out there, and they’re getting after it, yeah, it’s intense. It gets really intense – but that just shows you how much they respect each other because then, after the game, they’re all hugging on each other and high-fiving and looking at each other and clapping.”