As the clock ran out in the quarterfinal game against Bob Jones last week, fans swarmed the field to embrace the players and celebrate a come-from-behind victory that propelled Florence to the Class 7A boys soccer semifinals.
Among the celebration, senior co-captain Tyrus Williams stood with Florence head coach Glenn Harscheid as tears flowed thinking about the magnitude of the moment.
“(My favorite moment) was after the game being able to look my coach in the eyes and say that we finally did it,” Williams said.
It's the first time Florence soccer has reached the semi-finals. The Falcons play Hoover today at 3 p.m. at John Hunt Park in Huntsville.
“I was absolutely stunned by (the Bob Jones game), not for the fact that we won because I had full belief that we could win, but for the fact that we had made it to the semifinals after hearing all of these stories throughout the program,” Williams said. “It was just a really enjoyable moment. The team was living in the moment.”
Williams said Harscheid has told stories about his experiences with the program and how the program was being built before Florence High School was created by combining Coffee High School and Bradshaw High School.
“It slowly built up to a program where we just go out and face anyone fearlessly,” Williams said.
Harscheid said he has been at Florence to see the entire growth of the program.
“Everyone keeps asking me ‘is this the best team you’ve ever had?’” Harscheid said. “It’s the furthest we’ve ever gone. It may not be the best individually, but as far as the team goes, it’s amazing.”
Harscheid said one of his favorite pictures is of Christian Bennett from the Bob Jones game when he scored the goal to tie the game. Harscheid said the passion for playing is apparent on his face and the team is cheering all around him.
“That’s the type of bond that they have where it doesn’t matter who scored the goal, you will see the big celebration,” Harscheid said.
Harscheid said he has seen the program and the boys in it grow, having coached several of the boys on the team since they were eight-years-old.
Midfielder Grant Johnson said he was somewhat nervous going into the first round of playoffs against Grissom because he knew as a senior that could be his last game.
Johnson said his mentality has changed after watching his team come behind to win against Grissom and Bob Jones.
“Coming from behind made me realize how lucky I am to have this group of guys that won’t give up and will keep working hard, and it’s given me more games to play in,” Johnson said.
Harscheid said one of the things he is most proud of his team for is the ability to stay calm under pressure and continue to work hard.
“I told them ‘the only time you have my permission to panic is if you see me panicking or another coach panicking,’” Harscheid said. “They went out there and they stayed calm. I think it really says a lot about this group of boys and their character.”
Junior goalkeeper Chase Puryear said a turning point for this team was a game against Homewood, a team that was undefeated and had beaten the Falcons previously.
“We all just really wanted them, and we went out there and got the win,” Puryear said. “After that game, we have been getting a lot more Ws since.”
Williams said his team is excited about making it so far into postseason but does not plan to spend time playing with the realization it is the semifinal game.
“I think we’re excited to go, but in the end it’s just a game,” Williams said. “We’re going to play the same soccer that we go and do every day out here on the field.”
Junior Daniel Morris said the Falcons are ready to play.
“We have our game plan going into it, and I’m confident that if we can stick to it and play as a team that we can come out with a win Friday.”
The Hoover-Florence winner takes on the Enterprise-McGill-Toolen Catholic Saturday at 10 a.m. in the championship match.