By TYLER RALEY | Special to Homewood Life Magazine

HUNTSVILLE – The Homewood Patriots are back on top in Class 6A, avenging last year’s Final Four loss by completing a path to redemption with their first state title since 2021.

The Patriots used a fast start and motivated effort to roll to a 3-1 victory over the Spanish Fort Toros on Saturday, May 11 at John Hunt Park in Huntsville to complet their special championship run.

For head coach Julian Kersh, the feeling is unmatched, saying he understands what this senior class did and the mark they left is historical.

“It feels fantastic,” Kersh said. “I’m just happy for the seniors who, we obviously fell short last year in the semifinal. It’s not only a bunch of fantastic soccer players but just really great boys. I’m honored to coach them.”

The scoring started early for the Patriots, and they never looked back the rest of the way. They took a 2-0 lead going into the break, extending it once more in the second half to put the game out of reach for good.

Will Jackson was the star of the tournament for this team. The senior struck right out of the gate in the third minute, putting it through the net from close range and getting Homewood up 1-0.

As the game got more physical throughout the rest of the half, a penalty kick was awarded to the Patriots, one that Jackson took and capitalized on easily. He took the game into his own hands, giving his squad a positive feeling going into the half.

Homewood outshot Spanish Fort in the first half 7-5, but the damage could have been much worse at the break as Toro keeper Owen Williams made some big saves in between the posts.

The second half was all about running out the clock and playing solid defense for the Patriots, which is exactly what they did.

Just for good measure, though, Homewood wanted to add on to its advantage, and that is exactly what it did.

In the 59th minute, a short cross feed from Drew Giardina resulted in a knock in goal from Charlie Herring, giving the Patriots the early sweet taste of a championship.

Spanish Fort scored a goal late off the foot of Dylan Gaynor, but it was too little too late for the Toros to start their scoring.

As the buzzer sounded, Homewood ran out to celebrate as state champions for yet another year in Class 6A.

The Patriots had the advantage the entire time, outshooting Spanish Fort by eight, while also taking seven corner kicks as opposed to the five taken on the other side.

Jackson was named the MVP after the game, scoring three goals in the Final Four and walking off the field a winner in his senior season.

His emotions were evident and he knows he will remember this day forever.

“It’s just been an incredible experience, some of my favorite three years of soccer,” Jackson said. “I am so proud of this team, such an amazing experience. I’m so excited for Wake Forest and I’m going to bring home the legacy with me. They’re amazing.”

The victory today goes down as the seventh state title for Homewood in the program’s history, making the end of this season sweeter after its runs fell short the last couple of seasons. However, Kersh knows that things are still on the rise with his team.

“The future is bright. We’re graduating a strong corps of course, Charlie Herring, Will Jackson, Jackson Kittinger,” Kersh said. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores, a freshman on this team, a really strong junior class. We were up here last year, we’re up here this year, with any luck we’ll be back up here next year as well.”