By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
In his defense, Richard Dobbs is understandably proud of his Westbrook Christian High girls soccer team.
Especially the defenders, and even more especially, the back four.
“I joke with them a lot, saying defenders don’t get much recognition, but I had to get used to that in my playing days,” Dobbs said. “I was an offensive lineman, and we were the same way.”
The back four that Dobbs brags on are junior Vanessa Burns, junior Maddie Payne, freshman Barclay Bellew and freshman Sarah Blackstock.
“They’ve really done a fine job back there,” Dobbs said. “In fact, (Burns) came up one time and scored a goal. It’s not often the back four have that kind of range.”
Overall, Westbrook’s team is young, with the bulk of the team in ninth-grade and younger.
“We don’t have a superstar,” he said. “But we’ve had a lot of girls to score, and to me, that’s better than having a superstar because it makes you harder to defend. We have struggled to score at times, even games where we’ve had a lot of chances.”
The Warriors earlier lost to Class 1A-4A, Area 11 rival Crossville in double overtime. and now Dobbs has figured that to in order to make the state playoffs, his team must beat Crossville by at least two goals.
Dobbs likes the fact that the next game will be played in Crossville, saying his girls tend to play better on the road than at home in Rainbow City.
Southside’s girls soccer team is having a great year so far.
In fact, first-year coach Tiffany Cargill, who played soccer at Jacksonville State, referred to it as a “wonderful season.”
“We had some issues early on, trying to find the right combinations and formations for the kids we have,” she said. “But it seems like we’ve found some good ones. I hope the success continues.”
Last weekend, the Panthers won the Cullman Shamrock Invitational, taking five victories.
“That helped a lot, because the games were so close together,” Cargill said. “It helped our kids get used to playing one almost as soon as they finished the one before. And they responded terrifically.”
Two seniors – University of Montevallo signee Abby West and Jessica Lane – are helping on both sides of the ball.
“They’re an integral part of the team, on offense and defense,” Cargill said.
Juniors Courtney Clayburn and Melissa Garmon are the captains, and Cargill noted that they are both playing well on defense.
Southside competes in Class 5A, Area 7, which includes Fort Payne, Arab, Brewer and Columbia.
For the first time in school history, the Gadsden City’s girls soccer team has a true goalkeeper in freshman Lauren Roussell.
“We’ve had to just put someone in goal every year before now,” coach Samantha Corker said. “To have a true keeper is a blessing.”
Corker said that youth is Roussell’s only problem so far, such as knowing when to come out of goal and to make decisions that an experienced keeper makes.
“She has fantastic hand-eye coordination and is really good at catching the ball,” Corker said. “The rest will come with experience and maturity.”
There are two seniors on the squad in Shannon Murratta and Jordan Ryae.
The Lady Titans’ Class 6A, Area 12 competition includes Pell City and Oxford.
The Southside boys team has a couple of tough Class 5A, Section 7 contests coming up, both against Fort Payne.
But if Southside can sweep that series, an area championship could be in the works, as the Panthers are 3-0 against area competition.
“I think that if we can beat Fort Payne, we’ve got a good shot at making the playoffs and possibly advancing a long way,” coach Randall Barnard said. “But Fort Payne is a big test.”
There are only two seniors on the team in Mason Gore and Cole Bowling. There is also an exchange student from Germany in striker Andy Chiramonte.
“Andy hasn’t always started, but he’s scored some big-time goals for us,” Barnard said. “He gets to play a lot of minutes. He’s our 12th man, as it were.”
Junior Alex Williams and sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Leslie have both been instrumental in the team’s wins.
“Andrew has made a lot of saves,” Barnard said. “After we played John Carroll, their coach said he’s going to nominate Andrew for 5A Keeper of the Year.”