Russellville boys earn return to Huntsville for soccer final four
The Russellville High School boys’ soccer team is headed back to the final four of the AHSAA Class 4A-5A state tournament in Huntsville for the second straight year.
RHS defeated Westminster Christian on the road in round two by a 4-1 score and followed that up with a home victory May 7 over West Morgan by a dominating 10-0 total in the quarterfinals.
Through three rounds of playoffs, the Golden Tigers have outscored their opponents by a total of 24-1. With the wins, RHS improved its record on the season to 18-2-1, and the Russellville boys have a 37-3-1 record combining this year and last.
“These guys are some of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” said Russellville head coach Trey Stanford after the win over West Morgan. “They get after it every single day, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”
The Golden Tigers played with a quick pace from the opening kick against West Morgan. The two schools are familiar with each other, both coming from Class 4A-5A Area 14.
Orlando Jimenez scored the first of his four goals of the match with 37:16 remaining in the first half. He quickly followed with another score on a rebound of a Yamilson Velasquez shot on goal a few minutes later.
The third Jimenez score came with 23:17 to go in the opening half to put RHS up 3-0, and the fourth came about 10 minutes later after goals by Raymond Espana and Juan Cano.
During the second half, Manny Martinez scored twice, while Jonathan Salgado and Juan Cano had one goal each for RHS. The second goal by Martinez ended the match with 34:59 left on the 40-minute clock.
The Golden Tigers used a trio of goal keepers, with Elmer Villalobos getting the start. He was followed in goal by Luis Salgado and Mario Jimenez.
Russellville will play Crossville (16-2-0) in the semifinals at John Hunt Park May 12. The contest will be a rematch of this past year’s semis between the two schools, which was won in the final thrilling moments by RHS.
The other semifinal game in Class 4A-5A will also be a rematch from a year ago, between defending state champion Indian Springs (19-2-5) and Montgomery Academy (23-0-2).
Stanford described this past season’s 2-0 loss in the state championship game to Indian Springs as a “dagger in the heart,” to his squad and said they are looking forward to going back to Huntsville.
“It was like an open wound all year that they’ve been chasing,” Stanford shared. “Luckily, we can at least get a chance to go back and maybe get another chance at it.”
While the goal is a state championship, the Russellville team isn’t looking past their semifinal opponent. “Crossville is a talented, very solid team, and they’ve got a lot of kids back from last year,” Stanford added. “We had a battle with them last year. A storm came through when it was tied, and things just kind of went our way. This year, if we don’t play a little better than we did last year, they’ll beat us.”
Meanwhile, the Russellville girls (12-5-0) had their successful season come to an end with a second-round loss at St. John Paul II Catholic by a 4-1 final score.
Hannah Figueroa had the RHS goal on a long-distance kick, and goal keeper Jayna Poss had a number of saves.
“We’re getting better each year,” said Coach Fred Ambrosio. “It takes time with the girls. We have to build them up from the JV.
“I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished in six years. It’s a little bit harder for the girls because most of them haven’t played much until they get to high school.
“Winning the area championship and going to the playoffs is great for the girls and great for the program, too. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”