By Rubin E. Grant
When the final regular season Alabama High School Coaches Soccer Poll came out, Spain Park and Hoover were ranked 1-2 in the boys Super Poll and the Class 7A rankings.
Now, the two crosstown rivals will get to prove which one is the best in the state.
The top-ranked Jaguars will meet the second-ranked Buccaneers (20-2) at 3 p.m. Friday in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 7A semifinals at the John Hunt Soccer Complex in Huntsville.
Seventh-ranked Daphne will play No. 10 Davidson in the other 7A semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for 10 a.m. Saturday.
Hoover advanced with a 2-1 victory at No. 3 Huntsville last Friday. Peyton Argent scored in the 32nd minute on a free kick to give the Bucs the victory. Jay Udeh scored Hoover’s first goal in the 27th minute off an assist from Kosi Udeh.
Spain Park advanced with a 3-2 victory at Grissom in a back-and-forth game that saw the Jags trail 1-0 and 2-1 but respond each time. Kaleb Jowers, who has battled injuries throughout the season, tied it 2-2 with his 18th goal in 17 games, and junior Alan Melendez found the back of the net later for the game-winner.
Earlier in the week, Melendez scored with 1:13 left in the game on an assist from senior Drake Tabor to give Spain Park a 1-0 victory over Oak Mountain in the first round.
“Alan is one of our best players,” Spain Park coach Matt Hall said. “To have two game-winners within a few days is amazing. He does a lot of great things for us, defending and attacking.”
Spain Park and Hoover met once during the regular season with the Bucs pulling out a 2-0 victory on Feb. 19.
“The game could have gone either way,” Hoover coach Kris Keplinger said. “Spain Park is an excellent team, so hopefully it will be a great game.”
The Bucs are the de facto defending champs, having captured the 2019 Class 7A title. The 2020 season was halted in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so no champion was crowned last year.
Spain Park is in the Final Four for the first time since 2008 thanks to a veteran team with 10 seniors and nine juniors.
“There was a lot of pressure on us, a lot of expectations at the beginning of the season,” Hall said. “In the playoffs, we have been grinding out wins and I hope we can continue.”
Homewood Knocks Off Mountain Brook
Homewood also is in the state tournament. The Class 6A No. 1 Patriots will play No. 3 Fort Payne (18-2-1) in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday.
The Patriots defeated No. 2 Mountain Brook 1-0 (5-3 on penalty kicks) in the quarterfinals last Friday. The teams had battled to a scoreless tie in 90 minutes of regulation.
Homewood goalkeeper Luke Keown dove low to his right to stop Mountain Brook’s second attempt in the shootout, giving the Patriots an advantage before senior Jacob Sitton struck decisively to send the Patriots to the state tournament. Bryan Sokell, Gage Estep, captain Hardy Smith and Sam Malone also scored penalty kicks for the Patriots.
Spartan goalkeeper Reed Harradine held the Patriots scoreless during regulation play.
Top-ranked Indian Springs (23-2-1) will be in action in Class 4A/5A, playing No. 3 Montgomery Academy in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.