Bearcats championship bound

Josh McBrayer

HUNTSVILLE – Winning has become commonplace for the Cullman Bearcats soccer squad as they have dominated teams all year long on the pitch. They added another win to their impressive resume Friday morning, but this one was special because it not only avenged an early season loss but it vaulted the Bearcats into the 6A State Soccer Championship game.

It was a slow start for the Cats as Pelham went on the offensive early and took the game’s first shot on goal. The first few minutes of the half were played deep in Cullman territory and as soon as Cullman made their first run out of the back with Guilherme Albuquerque the Pelham plan was clear: stop Gui. He was tackled hard the first two times he touched the ball with fouls following but no cards being issued. The fouls didn’t seem to bother the Brazilian star as he continued to play his game and work the ball down the field.

Following the initial rush of their opponents, Cullman settled into a groove and started to play the brand of soccer that Cats fans have grown to love. They methodically advanced the ball to the Panthers side of the field and rattled off shot after shot, narrowly missing, but their persistence paid off at the 10:44 mark of the first half. Ben Walker received a trough ball just outside the center circle on the Pelham side of the pitch. He quickly served the ball to a teammate who sent it back to him via a wall pass. Walker then took the ball and streaked down the far side of the field and released a wicked cross from 20 yards out that wound up curving and found the side net on the near post to give Cullman a 1-0 advantage and this is where the score would stand as we went to the half.

The second was marred by a trio of yellow cards shown to the Cats and constant pressure by the Panthers. However, like they have done all year, Cullman held tough and stayed strong. Albuquerque drove the final nail as he buried a shot in the back of the net with 5:23 left in the second half to extend the lead and help punch Cullman’s ticket to the championship game. Cullman is slated to take on the Daphne Trojans who defeated Northridge 1-0. The game is slotted for a 10 a.m. kickoff on Saturday.