By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Magazine

HUNTSVILLE – The Homewood Patriots earned their redemption on Thursday, May 9 by avenging a heartbreaking loss to Fort Payne last year in the semifinals of the Class 6A playoffs.

After falling to eventual state champion Fort Payne 3-2 in last year’s Final Four, the Patriots worked to earn another opportunity this year and made it pay off in the rematch.

In a hard-fought battle, the Patriots used a late first-half goal and an insurance goal in the second half, combined with a remarkable defensive showing, to pull off a 2-0 shutout to avenge last year’s heartbreak and earn a spot in the title game Saturday.

The first half was all about the battle in the midfield, as neither team seemed to break away in momentum. The Patriots had a chance to capitalize on a couple of occasions, but never could find the net.

The first of those came in the 10th minute as Charlie Herring missed a shot just over the net after a cross from sophomore Brooks Harwell. The second came just a couple of minutes later, when Gid Malone also missed a shot high from close range.

The battle was tense throughout the game, but just when the first half was about to end, Homewood made its move.

A late solo run from Will Jackson saw a shot hit the back of the net with 24.4 seconds left, sending the Patriot fans who made the journey up north into a frenzy.

Homewood kept that momentum going into the middle portions of the second half, where the opportunities started to present themselves on the pitch.

In the 55th minute, a Patriot attack, and what was almost an electric goal, resulted in a save from Zahir Reynosa, keeping the score at 1-0.

Just 10 minutes later in the 65th minute, Homewood saw two opportunities not capitalized on, aggressively trying to put the game out of reach.

Things got chippy near the 70th minute as a series of tackles and physical challenges by both sides finally drew a whistle, resulting in a yellow card on Haines Durkin. This theme held true until the game reached full time.

That would not be a full issue, though. At the beginning of the 79th minute, Charley Chewning took a feed from Durkin to the box and put it by Reynosa, extending the Patriot lead to a more comfortable 2-0 with the insurance goal.

Despite the back-and-forth possession battle, Homewood controlled the shooting front, taking 25 compared to Fort Payne’s four.

The Patriots also had numerous opportunities from the corner, getting six corner kicks as opposed to two from the Wildcats.

Homewood now looks to use the momentum it gained from this victory in the Class 6A title game, where it will face the Spanish Fort Toros on Saturday, May 11 at 9 a.m. at John Hunt Park in Huntsville.