The Elmore County boys soccer team got a much needed victory in section play last Wednesday. The Panthers scored the first five goals of the match and held on to grab a 5-2 win at Tallassee for their fifth win of the season.
“It was a big deal for us because it brought us back to 2-2 in the (section),” Elmore County coach John Hilbish said. “It was nice to get to play on a dry field too. Even though Tallassee is down from what they normally are, it was good to get back to .500 in area play.”
Joseph Stockman scored a brace for the Panthers while midfielders Keith Ballard and Sam Barlet each added their first career goals. Jason Aguilar got on the score sheet for the fourth consecutive game to cap off the scoring for Elmore County.
After losing at Holtville, the Panthers were forced to play three road games in three days. The win at Tallassee came after a 2-0 win against Prattville Christian and was followed by a 2-0 defeat at Alabama Christian.
“We were playing kind of handicapped at the end of that one,” Hilbish said. “We were neck and neck until that injury and they scored those two goals in the last seven or eight minutes of the game. It was a heck of a soccer match though.”
Hilbish saw the grueling schedule begin to take a toll on his team during the loss to ACA. One player suffered a separated shoulder in the first half while another went down with a leg injury but the Panthers continued to fight.
“That was still probably one of the best games we played this year, especially with how broken down our guys were,” Hilbish said. “I was proud of them even though we lost. We had a really good week of soccer at Elmore County High.”
Elmore County (5-1-7) now has four remaining games to play in Class 4A-5A Section 4. The Panthers will need to see a huge resurgence down the stretch to have a chance at winning the section or moving into the postseason.
“We expect we need six wins to get through,” Hilbish said. “We think we’re going to have to win all four of the remaining ones to make it to the playoffs.”
The Panthers will have two non-section games around a week off for spring break to prepare for those final four games of the regular season. After hosting Wetumpka on Tuesday night, Elmore County will be back in action at Chilton County on April 6 before returning to section play.
“Mostly in non-area games, we’re trying to get in as many guys to play as possible,” Hilbish said. “Not to say that we are trying to lose but winning isn’t so important in those games. It’s about trying new things and getting experience against a quality opponent outside of practice.”
All four of Elmore County’s remaining section games will be played at home and the Panthers are confident they have a chance to finish on top of the standings. Elmore County has made it into the postseason just one time in the last five years.