In postseason play, sometimes a little luck is required.
Backed by a ton of effort — and perhaps a little luck — the Fort Payne boys forced overtime with a 1-1 draw against Southside-Gadsden and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the AHSAA Class 6A state playoffs with a wild 5-3 penalty shootout at Fort Payne High School’s Wildcat Stadium on Tuesday night.
“You have to have some luck in the playoffs, right?” Wildcats coach Michael Farmer said after his team improved to a 16-2-3 overall record. “You have to have some bounces go your way and tonight they did. I told our boys, ‘Let this be a lesson. You can’t come in overconfident.’”
The Wildcats host Randolph in a 6A state quarterfinal-round match at 7 p.m. Saturday. Randolph, the Area 15 runner-up, defeated Hartselle 4-1 in the second round. The Wildcats have two regular-season wins against Randolph to their credit this year.
On Tuesday, Fort Payne rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to tie the match when Kevin Quevedo perfectly timed a run down the left sideline, got on the receiving end of a pass and scored with 33:13 remaining in regulation.
After two scoreless 5-minute overtime periods, the match went to a penalty kick shootout. Quevedo, Joshua Guerra and Jesse Espinoza all scored in the finale before Cristian Barrientos’ score sealed the win.
Wildcats goalkeeper Ivan Soto collected John Doster’s penalty kick attempt during the exciting conclusion.
“In the playoffs, you can throw out all records,” Farmer said. “It’s about getting to the game and anything can happen. We played (Southside) earlier in the year, beat them pretty handily. But they came in ready to play, we came in a little overconfident.”
The Panthers (13-8) played a ball deep into the penalty area with 27 minutes left in the first half and Said Toumiba booted a quick strike into the net for a 1-0 lead.
There were plenty of favorable and unfavorable bounces around the goal throughout the night.
For example, when Fort Payne’s Guerra fired from 30 yards out, goalkeeper Jake Bell deflected the shot before it bounced off the left post and Bell smothered it before the Wildcats could seize on a second-chance scoring opportunity.
The Wildcats had a couple of potential tying chances sail off the post in the second half before Quevedo’s equalizer ripped through.
“It took everybody giving everything they had and a couple of bounces going our way,” Farmer said.
Fort Payne switched formations at halftime, shifting from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3, giving the Wildcats more players on the offensive half of the pitch.
By putting more players forward, the Wildcats started getting higher percentage second-chance scoring opportunities.
The Wildcats also got back to their roots of possessing the ball more in the second half.
“They had more energy than we did in the first half,” Farmer said. “I thought we started playing better in the second half, I thought we dominated the game in the second half. But you have to give it up to their goalkeeper, he played the game of his life tonight. We had to have over 30 shots and they might’ve had five.”
Farmer said he’d never seen his players so drained of energy after a match, but understood it meant they gave every ounce of effort to keep their postseason push alive.