History and heartbreak
Tigers grab playoff win, lose home playoff game
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
It was a heart-breaking defeat just four days after a history-making win. The Hartselle boy's soccer team fell to Northridge in the state quarterfinals by a 2-1 score. One of the Northridge goals came when a Tiger player attempted to head the ball out of danger and instead put the ball in his own net.
"You don't want it to end this way," Hartselle head coach Darrell Harris said. "We had such a great season. That was the first own-goal we've had this season. But Northridge outplayed us at midfield, putting the ball in our own net wasn't the reason we lost. They beat us at controlling the middle."
The visitors struck first with 19:53 remaining in the opening half, as David Martinez scored on after stealing the ball about 25 yards from the Hartselle goal.
The Tigers would answer back quickly, as they tied the score on Brian Hume's put back of a loose ball a Northridge defender attempted to clear out from in front of the goal.
The own goal came with 8:55 left in the opening half and gave the visitors the lead for good.
In the second half the Tigers managed only four shots on goal in their first ever-home playoff game.
The Tigers final threat came with 2:02 left in the match when a header off a corner kick sailed high over the crossbar.
"This is a tough loss to swallow," Hartselle senior Patrick Whatley said. "We played our best match we've played all season. It was really physical, but we lost to a very good team. We played with all the heart we had, but the ball just didn't roll our way tonight."
A over-flow crowd gave the Tigers a standing ovation when the final horn signaled the end of play.
After shaking hands with the victors, coach Harris and his players raced to the fence to thank the crowd for their support.
"This was amazing. To see a crowd so big was really unexpected," Whatley said. "There were some faces here we've never seen before. When we got here an hour-and-a-half before the match to warm up, the stands already had more people in them than are usually at one of our home games."
Earlier in the week, the Tigers had beaten No. 3-ranked Huntsville on the road for the program's first postseason win, 2-1 on a shoot-out after two scoreless overtimes.
Burleson scored on a pass from Ian Greenhaw with 16 minutes to play, but Huntsville would tie the scored 10 minutes later.
In the shootout, Greenhaw converted on his first shot attempt. Then Hartselle goalie Brad Galloway stopped Huntsville first attempt. Nick Galloway then found the net with his shot and Huntsville missed its next try. The Tigers clinched the win when Stephen Weissenborn nailed his kick into the back of the net and Huntsville missed its third attempt.
"I'm really proud of the way we played, because we're a pretty beat up team," Harris said. "Getting the first playoff win for the school is really something special."
Hartselle will lose many members of the starting lineup as Whatley, Greenhaw, Wesley Grove, Jesse Phelps, Brian Hume, Galloway, Eric Gilbert, Nathan Payne, John Waits, Corey Holt, Paul Sparkman and Grant Bergstue all will graduate later this month.
One senior feels the program has a bright future and will overcome the losses.
"I think this team has made it's mark and Tiger soccer will just keep getting better from here," Whatley said.
"Watch and see, Hartselle will reach an even higher level on the soccer field in the coming years."