Getting their kicks

Published 12:02 am Friday, February 1, 2013

Andalusia senior Hiren Patel (gray shirt) shows the Bulldogs soccer team how to perform a shielding drill during a recent practice. Hiten (green shirt and far left) looks on. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Hiten Patel sets the soccer ball on the cold, wet turf and kicks it at the right spot and at the right speed with a great follow through.

The ball knuckles, flying through the air whizzing back and forth until it meets its final destination — the goal.

Patel, an Andalusia senior, along with the rest of the Bulldogs soccer team are gearing up for its second season, which starts in 11 days in a home-opener against Class 6A Robertsdale.

“I think we have some pretty challenging games, but we’ll be all right,” Patel said about the season.

Andalusia had its first season as a soccer school in 2012. This year, the Bulldogs have an experienced group coming back, with 10 seniors on the roster, coupled with most of the players from last year’s team.

Hiten and his brother, Hiren, another senior, didn’t play on last year’s squad. The Patel brothers bring with them travel club teammate and senior, Christopher Smith, who recently signed to play soccer at Avila University in Kansas. Hiren is waiting to see if he can sign at the University of Alabama at Birmingham later this month.

The Patels and Smith played on the Gulf Coast Texans, out of Pensacola.

“I think we could help a lot,” Hiren said. “I don’t expect to lose (this season).”

Hiten said playing for AHS will give him the opportunity to teach the younger players a lot about “technique.”

“I think I can bring a lot of techniques and how to properly play soccer, instead of kicking it around like we did last year,” he said.

Andalusia has a broad spectrum of ages and grades on its team this season, Bulldogs coach Tim Ramsden said.

“We have six seventh graders going all the way through a lot of 12th graders,” Ramsden said. “When you’ve got that kind of change in age and sizes, you would think there would be some issues, but the older guys have taken (the younger players) under their wings.

“I’m very encouraged about that,” he said. “Some of these older guys are stepping up to the plate.”

AHS will be playing in the Class 1A-4A, Area 2 section with Charles Henderson, Houston Academy and Providence Christian.

Andalusia faces Houston Academy in its first sectional game on March 4.

The Bulldogs have to play each section team twice during the season. Post season play begins with area/section playoffs, which leads to three rounds of sub-state. The winner and runner up of the area/section playoffs advance to sub-state.

The state soccer tournament is held May 10-11 at the Huntsville Sports Complex.

Ramsden said without playing a game this season, Andalusia’s main strength is its goal keeper.

“With a strong goal keeper, we’re going to have a pretty solid midfield,” he said. “The question marks right now are going to be the defense and strikers — or our scoring abilities.”

The Bulldogs will host RHS on Tues., Feb. 12, at around 6 p.m., at the Kiwanis Field for their season opener.

“Everybody needs to come out and watch these games, that’s the big thing,” Ramsden said. “Everyone needs to come out and watch what we’re doing and encourage these kids.”