DHS soccer zeroes in on first-ever playoff berth

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the most important game in program history, Demopolis (11-7, 5-2) all but clinched its first ever playoff berth with a 2-1 win over Walker Tuesday.

“I’ve been here since my eighth grade year. Those years, we’ve never had the potential we do this year,” senior captain Brandon Hay said. “To see a team this young, with only five seniors, grow this much and have a chance to go to state is amazing. To be a part of this and to be a leader of this is beyond me.”

Hay played one of the best games of his career Tuesday, thwarting Walker offensive efforts time and time again while helping keep the team from Jasper at bay in the second half.

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Down the stretch, Walker shifted its approach and kept the ball in the Demopolis half of the field for much of the closing minutes.

“They put more attacking up front,” Demopolis head coach Peter Keen said. “They had more attackers to go against our defenders.”

That strategy kept the Tiger defense and Demopolis goalkeeper Rachel Walker under fire for most of the second half.

“Really intense. I was scared,” the Demopolis keeper said before praising her defensive teammates for their efforts in the match. “They did great. They had my back.”

Walker’s best chance at tying the game came on a penalty kick with only minutes remaining in the contest. One on one with the keeper, the Viking shooter pushed the ball to his right, bouncing it off the back post and ending the threat.

When the whistle blew, the Tigers began to celebrate. And senior Keith Junious took the opportunity to lie in the grass and take in the moment.

Just over an hour earlier, Junious helped make the moment possible when he pushed the ball up the right side before turning and firing it in between three converging defenders. The pass found a streaking Jarvis Lawson, who chipped the ball up above the Viking goalkeeper and into the back of the net from about 30 yards out to give DHS the 1-0 lead.

“He did what he needed to do to put the ball in,” Keen said of Lawson’s shot.

Minutes later, Lawson figured into the fray again. He took the ball for a throw-in on the left side and pitched it down the field to Cameron Fendley, who extended the lead to 2-0.

“Both of them did excellent,” Keen said. “It’s something we’ve worked on the last several weeks.”

From there, Walker went on the attack. The Vikings pushed the ball deep into Demopolis territory late in the second half before a whistle stopped play. The field referee called Demopolis for a push in the box, resulting in a Viking penalty kick that cut the advantage to 2-1 just before intermission.

Each team had its share of opportunities in the second half, but neither could convert.

“They did an excellent job. They played like they were supposed to. They had each other’s back,” Keen said. “It’s coming together. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. But I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The win gives Demopolis a one-game advantage over Walker for the No. 2 spot in the region with each team having only one area contest remaining on its schedule. The Tigers will travel to face John Carroll Friday. A win in that contest clinches a playoff spot outright. Even with a loss, the Tigers would clinch a berth if John Carroll were to defeat Walker April 22.