FLORENCE — Things weren’t perfect for the Florence boys soccer team at its annual Florence Soccer Challenge over the weekend.
Recent heavy rain made the fields slippery and muddy, and the Falcons closed the event with a 2-0 loss Saturday afternoon to Homewood in the championship match.
But the fields were still playable, and Florence went 3-1 in the event, and so in those ways the Falcons could consider the weekend successful.
“The big takeaway is we got some games in consistently, which was wonderful because the weather has been terrible for us,” Florence coach Glenn Harscheid said. “We identified some areas that we need improvement, and we actually had games where we could put it to full use.
“We made corrections and it was a great opportunity to get games. Now the conditions weren’t ideal, but talking with a lot of the coaches, to be honest, as bad as the fields were, they were happy to get the games in, too.”
Florence (5-2), which opened with 5-0 and 2-1 wins Friday over Cullman and Albertville, respectively, beat Northridge 1-0 Saturday morning to advance to the final. Eddie Alvarado scored that goal on a penalty kick.
The Falcons then met Homewood (6-0-2), last year’s Class 6A state champion, which scored both its goals in the first half. Connor Smith converted a penalty kick (though Florence protested the preceding tackle was clean), and four minutes later William Wallace lofted a shot into the left side of the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Homewood’s Collins Keith was named tournament MVP.
Florence keeper Chase Puryear made a couple strong saves in the second half. Harscheid said Puryear, Daniel Morris, Donar Ramos and Tyrus Williams – an “anchor” defensively – have all played well lately.
The Falcons, who beat Decatur and Oxford in last year’s 6A playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals to Fort Payne, will be tested in Class 7A, Area 8. All that area’s teams made the playoffs last year (with Florence and Austin doing so in Class 6A). Part of the Florence Soccer Challenge’s appeal is facing strong competition early in the year.
Harscheid said Homewood is good enough it challenged Florence to do simple things in ways other opponents had not done, and he thought the Falcons showed some nerves at the start of the final game.
“It’s something that we can address here in a tournament setting so when we get into the games that actually really matter, to get to the playoffs, we can hopefully conquer some of those challenges there,” Harscheid said.