Russellville boys soccer caps rookie season with quarterfinal berth, 18 wins
By Kim West for the FCT
Describing Russellville boys soccer’s debut season as a success would be a tremendous understatement after the Golden Tigers reached the Class 4A-5A quarterfinals, claimed the Area 16 championship and won 18 games.
Russellville, which is expected to move up in the final 4A-5A poll released next week, attained a No. 6 state ranking despite starting the season unranked and unknown. The program’s anonymity didn’t last long when the inaugural season began with a 9-1 mark and an impressive showing in the River City Shootout tournament in early March.
The Golden Tigers (18-5) reached the state quarterfinals with a 9-0 first-round win April 29 against Mae Jemison and a 4-1 victory May 2 against Crossville in the second round.
In the May 7 quarterfinals, Russellville ran into top-ranked Randolph, which prevailed 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 47th minute, eliminating a Golden Tigers’ side without junior midfielder Danny Carranza, who did not play because of a stomach virus. Last weekend, Randolph (24-2-3) went on to win its seventh state championship and second Blue Map trophy in two years, defeating No. 7 Briarwood Christian, 3-2.
Coached by Trey Stanford – who was recently selected as the assistant coach for the July 18 North-South All-Star soccer match in Montgomery — Russellville put on an offensive and defensive show on the pitch, tallying 121 goals and yielding only 20 goals in 23 games. Three of five losses came against Cullman, Florence and Albertville, three of the Top Ten teams in Class 6A.
Thirteen Golden Tigers found the back of the net, led by senior striker Marvin Betancourt (36 goals, ten assists, six hat tricks), junior striker Andy Alonso (30 goals, nine assists, four hat tricks) and Carranza (12 goals, 16 assists).
Stanford, who coached both the boys and girls’ varsity teams this season, deflects praise for guiding Russellville to an 18-win season, highlighting the talent pool, the character of his players and team camaraderie.
“First off, I have extremely talented athletes on my team. That’s the main reason we have been so successful. I have some guys with great skill with the ball of their feet, and I have some guys that absolutely love the game of soccer,” Stanford said.
“Now with that being said, one of the reasons I honestly feel like we have been so successful with scoring all year is my kids truly love one another. They enjoyed being around each other. They play for each other, and I think that has a big role in how many goals each player scores. We preach loving each other and putting your fellow teammate in front of yourself every day at practice. At some point, we talk about it every day.”
The Russellville boys lose six seniors in Betancourt, center backs Kevin Salgado (two goals) and Andy Alvarez (three goals), striker Jorge Bahena (11 goals), defender Jorge Flores and reserve defender Cody Boshell.
Among six starters returning are Alonso, Carranza, junior goalkeeper Jesus Betancourt (two goals on offense, 97 saves and 20 goals allowed in 23 starts), freshman midfielder Samuel Bahena (eight goals) and junior midfielder Cedrick Mojica (seven goals).
“We have six returning starters, and they have big shoes to fill,” Stanford said.
Perhaps the proudest moment for Stanford came for something unrelated to goal-scoring, wins or rankings. He said it occurred after Russellville played its first area match April 13 at East Limestone.
“(Our players) care about their success in life after school. But I think the most important thing that people need to realize is what great young men and women they really are,” he said. “The first time we played at East Limestone High School, the girls’ head coach, Brad (Carwile), called me while we were riding our bus back to Russellville and told me that his parents told him to call and let me know how respectful my young men and women were after their games while they were waiting on the other game to get finished. To me that speaks volumes about their character.”
Tryouts for the 2018 girls and boys’ varsity teams will be May 22-23 at Russellville Golden Tiger Stadium. Girls’ tryouts are from 3:30-5 p.m., followed by the boys from 5:30-7 p.m. Athletic paperwork must be turned into Stanford before attending tryouts.