Holtville keeps section title hopes alive with win over Elmore County

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald

Jackson Hand (23) looks for space to dribble against Elmore County’s Keith Ballard during Holtville’s win in Eclectic on Thursday.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of every area team’s senior class as their senior seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will culminate in Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.’s Virtual Senior Night. For more information on that, visit www.thewetumpkaherald.com.

The seniors on Holtville’s boys soccer team never missed a postseason in high school. However, despite 32 wins and one section title, the Bulldogs never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. 

Their final year was supposed to change that and the Bulldogs were in good position before the season was cut short. They were unbeaten in their last four matches and started 2-0 in section play.

“It’s obviously disappointing,” Holtville coach Robby Broom said. “It was a little deflating because this team was just starting to play well together. The seniors were doing a great job of leading. I started getting that feeling that this team could do something special. When the season got wiped out, it took a little bit out of me.”

That disappointment is still sitting with Broom a little bit but he said it makes it easier when these seniors have already accomplished so much that they can look back on. There were plenty of victories to cherish and it certainly made it sweeter when so many of them were against rivals.

“The big thing they wanted to do was keep win streaks alive against county teams,” Broom said. “They all play together outside of school and they know each other but in the locker room when the doors are shut, it’s a big motivational factor. They talk about it a lot. And they accomplished that goal.”

Holtville defeated Elmore County 5-1 in the final game before the shutdown. The victory extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 11 games against county rivals Elmore County and Tallassee.

Miles Broom and Jackson Hand each contributed a goal and an assist in the final match. The two seniors nearly played every minute of their final season and played key roles in the midfield as three-year starters.

After recovering from a four-wheeler accident before his junior season, Miles Broom was finally back at 100% and it showed. He finished his career with 21 goals and 42 assists, playing all four years while his dad was the head coach.

“I’ve thought about that a lot,” coach Broom said. “Did I make a difference? Did I hold him back? Did I push him hard enough? Those are my biggest worries. But the way he came out this year, once he got fully fit, I felt a lot better. He didn’t need me to push him because everyone saw that he did that on his own.”

Hand flew a little bit more under the radar but he kept pulling the strings in the midfield, playing a crucial role in Holtville’s attack. He finished with seven goals and five assists but his impact was about more than the numbers.

“I think that definitely worked as an advantage for him especially the first time we played people,” Broom said. “They would try to focus on our known players and he took advantage of that. If you didn’t defend well, he was going to make you pay.

Seniors Ryan Reeves and Calvin Lusk were often on the bench as reserve defenders but they each provided a boost in their own unique ways.

“Ryan always brought enthusiasm,” Broom said. “He worked hard every day and he carried that over into the games. He always wanted the team to do well. That gave us that kind of family atmosphere.”

Lusk, who will be entering the Army, added to that work ethic and kept pushing everyone from the starters down to the bench despite not getting much game action.

“Some of that ROTC training he brought with him to the practice field,” Broom said. “He was going to give you more than 100% and he was never going to pat himself on the back. That helps us practice hard and practice fast. To be successful in soccer, you have to practice fast because if you don’t, everything is off. That was something he was able to give us.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.