North Pulaski soccer coach Jeffery Osborn knew something was different about this year’s team from the very first match of the season. His feeling was justified as the Falcons are competing in the 5A State Soccer Tournament today.
“In our first game, we mercy-ruled Monticello at home,” Osborn said. “The next week we won again and suddenly we are 3-1. I told our guys to take it in stride and not get overconfident, but they realized what they could do. They started talking state at the beginning of the year and kept asking what it takes.”
The Falcons (8-6) finished fourth in the 5A-Central behind Sylvan Hills. Basically, the third and fourth seeds came down to those two teams, and Sylvan Hills defeated North Pulaski twice. The Falcons meet Greenbrier, the top seed from the 5A-West, at 4 p.m. in Harrison. This year’s trip is rewarding after a 1-11 campaign last season.
“The kids realize what they’re doing and are feeling pretty good,” Osborn said. “We have some injuries we are trying to nurse, but that is a testament to how hard we’ve played throughout the season. If you play hard, you get banged up.”
Throughout most of the season, the Falcons have been at a disadvantage. With only 13 players, they don’t have the luxury of many substitutes. That drawback came into play this past Monday in a makeup contest with Sylvan Hills where they lost 6-3. With one injured and another player who couldn’t make the match, North Pulaski played with 11 guys. During the match, two more were hurt so they were playing nine against 11. When the goalie went down leaving them with eight, Osborn talked the Sylvan Hills coach into playing eight against eight.
“We were tied up with 10 minutes left at three,” Osborn said. “Eight on eight is especially hard because you have to expend more energy. They subbed and scored three goals pretty quickly because we just ran out of gas.”
Still, Osborn was proud of the way the guys played and has been all season. He’ll lose seven seniors this year, but hope they are part of the start of a tradition for North Pulaski soccer. The majority of his players have played the entire 80 minutes, and it won’t be any different today.
“We’ll be tested,” Osborn said. “If we play our best we can play with anybody. We just have to play North Pulaski soccer and play our kind of ball.”