lucas roberts

Benjamin Russell's Lucas Robert, right, has been solid in the midfield all season, and the Wildcats will need that to continue tonight against Stanhope Elmore.

Unlike the first round when Benjamin Russell’s boys soccer team knew very little about its Class 6A playoff opponent, this time around the Wildcats know their opponent like the back of their hand.

Benjamin Russell hits the road tonight for Stanhope Elmore, where it’ll take on the Mustangs at 6 p.m.; this is the third time this season the teams have met. Stanhope will enter as the favorite, as it has beaten the Wildcats twice during the regular season, but as every good coach knows, it’s hard to beat a team three times.

“Look at March Madness,” Benjamin Russell coach Austin Teel said. “Look at Auburn. They played Kentucky three times, but when the game mattered is when (Auburn) showed up and played. I’ve been preaching to our guys, ‘This game is what matters.’ Those two in the season don’t matter anymore.

“I also look at the situation of both games. We got a red card early in the first game, and in the second game, I was missing a couple starters due to injury. And both those games were close, so we feel good going into this game.”

Stanhope (16-3-3) defeated Benjamin Russell (15-4-2), 2-0 and 3-0 during the regular season, but Teel said the second game, he felt like the Wildcats were the better team in the second half and he hopes that will give them some momentum going into tonight’s game.

BRHS will have to be on the lookout for Christo Rocha, who was pushed up to the front line for the latter half of the season, and the offense has started to flow through them. Michol Torres is also a top goal scorer, while Dylan Presciti and Rigan Stewart anchor the back line. Isaac Stubbs is the goalkeeper for the Mustangs, who have posted 10 shutouts this season.

Although Stanhope boasts a solid squad all the way around, Teel knows his Wildcats can compete with the Mustangs. SEHS is coming off a penalty-kick victory over Opelika, a team with which Benjamin Russell split during the regular season. Auburn also hosted the Mustangs and earned a victory, and BRHS tied with the Tigers.

“We can play with them, and in soccer, anything can happen,” Teel said. “It only takes that one goal, and that’s what we’ve been preaching.

“There are usually three big moments during the game, and it depends on how we perform during those moments. I just feel like typically you’re going to get three opportunities to make three shots that are really going to matter, and same thing defensively. They’re going to get three opportunities, and you’re going to need to make that big tackle that shuts down their confidence.”

There are certainly individuals Stanhope Elmore will need to look out for BRHS. Luke Harvey leads the scoring, while Lucas Roberts and Dylan Riley have both been lockdown in the midfield. Deshaun Gonzalez has anchored a strong backline, and Campbell Woods has posted seven shutouts of his own.

But Teel isn’t looking at individuals; instead, he knows it’s going to take a collective effort to take down the No. 2-ranked team in Class 6A, according to EuroSportScoreboard.

“It’s going to take not only the 11 out on the field but it’s going to take the guys on the bench too,” Teel said. “They gotta be supporting their teammates, and they need to be ready when their number gets called. I don’t think an individual is going to win this game.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.