“We came into this game saying this was for the county championship,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Zedaker said. “We added Childersburg to the mix this year, so we’ve got three teams in the county now. We defeated Childersburg twice. We defeated Talladega twice. We’re not going to the playoffs this year for the first time in 14 years, but we are defending our county championship. We’re real proud to walk out of here knowing we’re county champs.”
Even in the first half Sylacauga had more shots on goal, but the score was tied at halftime 1-1.
A mere seven minutes into the game, Dakotah Moffa was issued a yellow card. Multiple yellow cards were issued for both teams near the end of regulation.
Adolfo Gamino got a good, although lengthy shot, but Talladega goalkeeper was able to deflect the ball.
At 21:34, Matthew Grifitt kicked a hard shot following a foul of Gamino by Moffa. Grifitt kicked it very nearly after the foul was called to try to catch the Talladega defense off guard, but Hammonds came up with the save.
Talladega got on the scoreboard first, 13:40 into the game on a shot by Jack Bailey. Bailey received a cross from Mason McKibbon, who was credited with an assist. Elijah Sanders attempted to make an aggressive save, but was unable to do so.
Sylacauga answered with a goal 2:17 later in the game. Gamino scored on the left side of the goal on a perfectly placed cross from the center of the field. Gamino fired right just beyond the reach of Hammonds.
In the second half, McKibbon made a good shot from the right side of the field toward the left end of the goal, but Sanders made a diving deflection.
Grifitt scored the first goal of the second half at the center of the field. The shot was from long distance, but Grifitt drilled the shot. Hammonds got his hands on the ball, but it bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net for a goal nearly 15 minutes into the half.
At 16:38, Sanders made an aggressive save, as he was left one on one but he made a leaping grab of a ball to get it out of danger.
Sylacauga pulled away with only 2:40 remaining, as Gamino made a nice cross to Bishop Hays for a goal.
Talladega made things interesting when McKibbon scored a goal with 43.9 seconds remaining in the game on a penalty kick that sailed into the far left end of the net, but Sylacauga was able to hold on for the win.
“I saw my team overcome a ton of adversity,” Zedaker said. “It’s always tough coming in this stadium and playing this team. With their emotions, they’ve got a great fan base, and it’s always one of these types of games. We relaxed a little bit there at the end. We got up 3-1 and they snuck one in on us on a free kick. That was a heck of a kick and it made it a very tight game there at the end. I’m just proud that for the most part my kids kept their head, the emotions they kept within themselves, and they kept playing soccer. That’s the main thing we wanted to do: play soccer; not let the emotions and the rivalry of the game get to us, but mainly just do what we need to do as a soccer team and play a pretty game.”
Sanders made six saves on seven shots on the goal. Sylacauga had a total of 15 shots on goal.
Talladega head coach Joseph Manning felt his team played well overall.
“We played pretty well,” Talladega head coach Joseph Manning said. “There were a lot of mistakes. A lot of things could have went either way. The ball just didn’t fall our way. We made good plays, they made good plays. It’s just their ball fell in and ours didn’t.”