By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
PINSON — It was a match in which Paul Bryant was no match for Pinson Valley.
Sam Shaw scored two goals and an assist, Hunter Middleton added two goals and Josh Almandarez had two assists plus a goal of his own as the Indians cruised to a 8-0 victory in the first round of the AHSAA Class 5A boys soccer playoffs.
Pinson’s forward line was nearly unstoppable, beating the Stampede’s defense to nearly every through-ball and long pass. Middleton and Shaw kept the barrage going throughout the first half, with Almandarez working the grandstand touch line and feeding his fellow forwards with crossing pass after crossing pass.
The Indians struck quickly, with midfielder Giovanni Molina finding the back of the net five minutes in.
Six minutes later, it was Almandarez on the receiving end of a pass from Shaw for the second goal of the night.
In the 21st minute, Middleton converted on the first of two perfectly-placed crosses into the box to get on the score sheet for the first time. The duo connected again two minutes before halftime.
That’s something that has improved as the season has progressed, Indians coach Chris Mills said.
“That’s has gotten better throughout the year, and it has taken some shuffling around of people to get them in the right spot,” Mills said.
Barely a minute after Middleton’s first score, Shaw got his first when he dribbled past Stampede keeper Devin Fuller.
Then mere seconds after Middleton’s second goal, Ramone Cupido put the Tribe ahead 6-0 with a free kick from 45 yards out, which just squeezed under the crossbar and past a stunned Fuller.
Shaw got his second goal seven minutes into the second half, as he calmly guided the ball into an open net after backup keeper JaCure Jackson misplayed a shot. Shaw had a similar opportunity four minutes prior, but shanked a kick into an untended goal mouth.
After that, Mills put his subs in for the rest of the match. But with just under one minute to play, Will McPherson wrapped up the scoring when he found himself in a one-on-one with Jackson, and dribbled the ball past him to score.
The rout would have been bigger — and the match would have been over sooner on the 10-goal rule — if not for Fuller’s efforts. He tallied seven saves in the first half, and ran down at least four headman passes that were simply too long for Middleton or Shaw.
Similarly, the Pinson forwards may have been their own worst enemy early on, as their speed led them to simply outrun the Stampede’s back line — resulting in seven offside calls.
Mills made a few changes of players in some positions, he said, “and it worked. We wanted to be aggressive and get some goals early, so some of the changes we made were to be more offensive.”
Indians goalkeeper Jaime Vargas was relatively untested, recording just one save. He was rested in the 50th minute.
The victory sets up a second-round match against Moody, whom Pinson has already beaten twice this year. The Blue Devils won their first playoff game in school history, taking down Demopolis 4-1.
“They’re going to be high and excited, and won’t be thinking about those two losses,” Mills said. “We beat them twice, but that doesn't matter in the playoffs. You just have to get hot at the right time.”
The match is at Pinson on Saturday, tentatively scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff.