With just under a minute to go in regulation, Benjamin Russell put on the pressure.
Shots were flying from every corner at Opelika’s goalkeeper. Abigale Sims looked to notch one from the right corner then with traffic near the left post, Makenzie Davis got a foot on one and tried to net it. It was rebounded to the middle where Jordan Osborne raced in and shot one just high of the net.
None of the attempts found the back of the goal.
As the seconds continued to tick off, Opelika iced a 2-1victory over the Wildcats in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“We really started adjusting the last five minutes, pushing numbers forward,” Benjamin Russell coach Lee Wagoner said. “But the last minute, it was all hands on deck. We had to move everybody forward and try to create that equalizer. There were three chances right there in about 45 seconds, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way.”
Benjamin Russell knew it was in for a battle against its section foe, as both regular season games between the two squads were a one-goal differential and one needed overtime to decide it.
So the Wildcats started hard and fast, and after taking a few minutes for both teams to settle in, they began to get some pressure on Opelika’s backline. By creating traffic in front of the net, the Wildcats got their first and only goal of the game, as Gabi Watson finished just inside the left post to go up 1-0.
But less than 10 minutes later, the Bulldogs answered. Opelika’s Amiya Brown got in a one-on-one situation with a BRHS defender and tucked a shot inside the left corner that found the back of the net. Just five minutes later, Opelika took its lead. A shot from Brown went wide but it was scooped up by Estefany Alba who netted it.
“I challenged our girls to get the first one, and we did that,” Wagoner said. “Then I knew we were going to have to win the next five minutes. We had to weather the storm of scoring and settle back down into the game, and we didn’t make it through or it was close to that timeframe. They came back and scored; we just got a little unorganized and didn’t make the best decisions on how to play the ball.”
Benjamin Russell had several opportunities. Watson had a pair of shots in the final five minutes of the first half, including one that hit the post, which could’ve made a huge difference. The Wildcats also outshot Opelika, 7-4, in the second.
“I think we played a solid game, and all the credit to Opelika because they’re a good team but we’re a good team too,” Wagoner said. “Games like these build character. It’s tough to watch my seniors (Watson and Sara Jones) walk off the field in tears because they know this is the end of something, but the legacy that those two girls are going to leave for this program is going to be unmatched. They’re tremendous players and tremendous human beings.”