By JD McCarthy
For the Opelika Observer
“I got to find some answers for the big games,” said Smiths Station coach Jeff Carrero.
The Panthers had their second chance to take down Auburn on Wednesday and once again came up short, falling 6-3. It was a game of two halves for the Panthers, who were tied 2-2 at half.
“We started off strong,” Carrero said. “We scored the first goal and we continued to play well, and I thought the first half we were just as good as Auburn, and the score indicated that.”
The Panthers came out strong in the start of the second half, retaking the lead 3-2 before Auburn tied the game at on a “good opportunity” that the keeper had a chance to make the save on but was unable to.
Ten minutes later, disaster struck for the Panthers. Tyler Suggs was on a breakaway with a chance to retake the lead and was “crushed” by the goalkeeper.
“Tyler has scored over 20 goals for us this season and tried to come back into the game, but he couldn’t continue,” Carrero said. While the keeper was given a yellow card, Carrero thought it deserved a red and from there the game quickly unraveled.
“From there we lost focus, our offense went down, and we had to regroup and move some players around,” Carrero said. “Then Auburn’s pressure just kept coming and we couldn’t have a good counter.”
The Panthers did not have long to dwell on their loss as they played a good LaGrange team on Friday. While the Panthers lost 4-0, Carrero thought his boys played well and was happier than after the Auburn loss.
“We played well against LaGrange; we just couldn’t finish. It was one of those games where when we got down on the offensive end, we just could not generate the finish that we needed.”
This is where the loss of Suggs was felt the most, as he leads the team in goals and the Panthers do not have another player of his skillset.
“I think if Tyler would have been in the game it would have been a different game,” Carrero said.
“I don’t have a big bench and I don’t have anybody to replace Tyler. I can pretty much replace a defender; I can replace midfielders; but at forward, right now I don’t have anybody that I can just slide in there and get the results that we need. Tyler is just super talented, and it’s hard to replace a super talented player on the field.”
The Panthers will look to get back winning against Beauregard on Tuesday and Carrero wants to see his team come out on top.
“I just want to win. I want to have a nice game where everybody plays to their potential. I want to see us get the ball into the back of the net,” he said. Results of the game were not available at time of press.
With the loss to Auburn, Smiths Station finished second in the area and will play at Enterprise on Monday in the first round of the playoffs – Carrero likes his team chances.
“I’m confident about going into Enterprise. If Tyler is ready and everyone plays to their potential, we should be fine. We should be able to take care of business.”