Familiar foes clashPublished 10:23am Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Benjamin Russell and Homewood are no strangers – or friends, for that matter – to each other, regardless of sport.
But soccer matches between the two teams bring all the bad blood to the surface.
The next chapter of this rivalry takes place tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex, as the Patriots come to town hoping to bring an end to the Wildcats’ season.
Homewood had played spoiler for Benjamin Russell in the past, as BRHS boys soccer coach Austin Teel attested.
“In my sophomore year (at BRHS), we lost to them in the longest soccer playoff game in the state of Alabama,” Teel said. “We had to go through 15 players in the shoot-out round. The next year, we lost to them in the finals despite having a lead. It’s a rivalry I looked forward to playing in, and now I look forward to coaching in it.”
With the Wildcats having run over the majority of their competition this season, Teel expects the road to the second round to be far from easy.
In fact, Teel added, the game may be the most taxing one the ‘Cats will have played so far this year.
“A typical Homewood team is big and physical,” Teel said. “We know we’re getting a good team that’s coming in here.”
The Wildcats have had a good look at the Patriots, though. BRHS was aware that Homewood was going to be a likely opponent in the first round and decided to do some homework in the form of scouting Homewood during its 4-1 regular-season finale loss to Auburn.
Teel said the team learned a lot about what they have to do to beat the Patriots.
“Our guys feel confident. We always compare ourselves to the Birmingham-area schools, as they are who we have to beat to get to the championship,” he said. “We got to see them play, and we saw their strengths and weaknesses at work. They have a strong midfield, but their defense has a tendency to sit back and let offenses come at them to attack.”
With aggressive strikers Cole Grogan and Grant Hudson at the forefront, the Wildcats intend to push the pace and dictate the flow of the game with pressure, Teel said.
“Just like all season, we have preached all week that we have to use the first 15 minutes to set the tone of the game,” he said. “If we do that, the game should be in our hands to win or lose.”
Teel said he’s looking for the defense’s best game of the year.
With that unit being led by captain Michael Mann and goalkeeper Scott Sturdivant, the onus is on the Patriots, Teel said, to make Homewood earn every scoring chance it may come across.
“Homewood likes to score in set pieces,” Teel said. “I want to see our guys get a shutout, but we definitely have to make sure they don’t get any easy goals. We have to force them to earn every goal they get. If they don’t score on any of their sets, it should be a very good night for us.”
BRHS and Homewood play at 7 p.m. tonight, following the girls’ playoff game versus Briarwood Christian.