Tigers fall in gutsy third round performance

5-7-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Adam Brooker has to use a little more than finesse to work to gain possession against Helena.

5-7-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Adam Brooker has to use a little more than finesse to work to gain possession against Helena.

Demopolis (14-3) saw its season come to an abrupt and dejecting end in the third round of the Class 4A-5A state playoffs Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Helena.

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5-7-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – James Woods takes some contact but still makes the save against Helena.

The Tigers played a man down for the final 36:42 of regulation and all of the overtime period after one of its starters picked up his second yellow card of the match.

“I’ve been coaching for a good little while now and I’ve never been prouder of a team whose backs were put up against a wall from the beginning of the game and the only thing they could do was fight and that’s what they did for the remainder of the game,” Demopolis coach Bert Rice said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of them, how much I appreciate them and the work that they put in.”

With 1:41 remaining on the overtime clock, a call just outside the box gave Helena a free kick. Jason Nichols shot it low to right side of the goal just beyond the wall of Demopolis defensemen and into the net for the win.

“We can’t control what the referees do. I didn’t like the call. I don’t think anybody else liked the call. But they made it and there’s nothing we can do about it. I hate that it did come down to an official’s decision and not left out on the field,” Rice said. “But that’s something we’ve got to live with. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re just going to have to swallow it and move on.”

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5-7-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Tony Velez attempts to free himself to control the ball against Helena.

Despite playing a man down, the Tigers climbed out of a 1-0 hole with 32:48 to play when Adam Brooker headed the ball out of traffic around midfield and to a streaking Cristian Velez, who banged it in to tie the game.

“When you have that many cards early, you can’t play the game like you want to. But I told them it was out of our control and we had to control the things that we can control. We just had to get after it and I think that they displayed the kind of character that I think any coach would want them to show. I’m extremely proud of them and I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” Rice, whose team had seven yellow cards in the game as compared to Helena’s two, said. “This has been an incredible year. I think they showed up prepared to win. I think they’re mindset was coming out here and taking care of business and it has been for the entire year. That’s why it makes you sore to see it end like that. This team has given valiant efforts every time they’ve taken the field. As a coach, you can’t ask anymore than that. I told them to walk off the field with their heads high and to be proud because they should be. Not many people get put in that type of situation and are able to survive it, much less prosper from it and prolong the game and gave us a shot. They gave us a shot the whole game and I just hate it came down to that.”

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5-7-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Smit Patel pushes the ball upfield against Helena.

The first goal of the contest came with 31:01 to play in the first half when Brennen Brown launched a free kick up to Jeremy Hughes, who headed it in for the 1-0 lead.

The Tigers took 15 shots in the game, 10 of which came in the second half while they were playing a man down. Helena took 17 shots on the evening. Demopolis goalie James Woods recorded seven saves for the Tigers.

The game marked the final contest for the senior quintet of Woods, Brooker, Velez, Smit Patel and Nick Helms.

“James is one of the most pleasant, hard-working kids you will ever be around in your life. James Woods has meant the world to me. He’s a great kid and he’s a great goalie and he’s a fun kid to coach. Tony has the most ability out of any kid that I’ve ever been around. He’s capable of doing anything he wants to do from here on out. I know that he’ll accomplish great things,” Rice said, reflecting upon his senior class.

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5-7-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Zachary Chu finds himself the center of the attention of several Helena players.

“Adam going on to UAB, he’s got a lot of soccer ahead of him and we’re excited for him about that. I don’t have to talk stats. He’s the best player in the state in my eyes. I hate to see him walk off the field the last time. I do, because he is a heck of a kid. Nick Helms, it was his first year playing soccer and he brought a personality to our team that a lot of times kept our head above water. And I don’t think he’ll ever know how much I appreciate him for that. Smit Patel is a great human being. He’s a great kid. Works hard every day. He’s got the same type of personality. He’s going to pick everybody up. The kids all love each other; especially these seniors loved everybody. They were fun to coach and the effort they put in was phenomenal. I appreciate every one of them.”


Adam Brooker – 42

Cristian Velez – 25

Zachary Chu – 17

Clay McVay – 6

Alex Maravilla – 6

Smit Patel – 3

Patrick Rosales – 2

Tyler Pipkins – 2

Joseph Barnes – 2

Ashley Dunn – 1

J.C. McVay – 1

Hugo Galvan – 1

Jaylen Wilson – 1

Matt Beckum – 1

Nick Helms – 1

James Woods – 1