By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
PINSON — As easy as Pinson Valley’s soccer playoff win over Paul Bryant was last Tuesday, their quarterfinal win Saturday over Moody was even easier. And quicker, too.
The Indians scored early and often, and took advantage of a red card charged to a Blue Devil defender midway through the first half to play a man up the rest of the way, as they scored a 10-0 victory in a game ended in 70 minutes on the 10-goal rule.
Pinson completed their forward-line trifecta within 21 minutes. Josh Almandarez scored from a Hunter Middleton assist three minutes after the opening kickoff, then Middleton scored from a Sam Shaw pass in the 19th minute. The cycle was completed when Shaw scored two minutes later from an Almandarez pass.
Shaw found the back of the net again in the 26th minute off of a rebound inside the 6-yard box, and was about to complete a natural hat trick four minutes later as he got out in front of a long goal kick from Jaime Vargas. Shaw had a clear path to the opposing goal, but was taken down from behind just inside the penalty area by Moody midfielder Alex Irwin in the 30th minute.
The referee wasted no time in pulling the red card out of his book and sending Irwin off, as well as awarding a penalty kick. Giovanni Molina couldn’t convert when Devils goalkeeper Ashton Carter guessed right and stopped the kick just inside his goalpost, but mere seconds later Indians midfielder Preston Dixon took Moody’s failed clearance and charged back in from the wing to put a shot past Carter.
Pinson led 5-0 at halftime, and added two more within the first two minutes after the break, including one by Shaw to complete the hat trick.
Middleton also got his second goal of the night, and Pinson finished off with scores by Molina, Will McPherson and Jordan Walton. Molina finished with four assists for the match.
The victory sends the Indians back to the Class 5A final four in Huntsville on Friday, where they will take on an old nemesis — St. Paul’s Episcopal of Mobile, which beat Pinson in last year’s state semifinal.
“We’ve been wanting to get back there and see them all year,” coach Chris Mills said. “We weren’t sure if [St. Paul’s] was going to make it — they finished second in their area.”
And the Saints very nearly did not. They finished their quarterfinal match with Spanish Fort in a scoreless draw after regulation and extra time, and won the game 1-0 on penalty kicks.
Friday’s game kicks off at 3:45 p.m. Athens takes on Briarwood Christian in the other semifinal. The winners will meet in the state championship on Saturday.