Indian Springs boys win 4th state championship in school history
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HUNTSVILLE – Lined up at midfield, Indian Springs head coach Rik Tozzi walked down the line to each of his players and embraced in a celebratory hug on Friday night, May 7 at Huntsville’s John Hunt Park.
Tozzi thanked each of his players individually for their part in history following a 2-0 shutout victory against Russellville in the Class 4A-5A boys’ soccer state championship.
He spent a little extra time with Jackson Nabors, who scored both goals in the win, to cap off a strong Final Four after totaling two assists in the semifinals to help Springs put together two consecutive 2-0 clean-sheet wins en route to the championship.
“To come up here and have two clean sheets is fantastic. We played two quality opponents. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” Tozzi said.
“I told the boys, they write country songs about state championships for a reason. These boys will remember this forever and will be bonded forever. It’s just special.”
With the back-to-back shutouts in the Final Four, Indian Springs picked up their fourth state championship in school history and first at the 4A-5A level, while the team completed the season with 20 shutouts to finish 23-2-1.
Normally a defensive-minded team that wants to defend and counter going the other way, Springs came out in an attacking mindset in the opening half, which led to a fast start and several opportunities.
After several good looks in the first 20 minutes, Nabors struck with his first goal after a teammate lobbed a long and high pass his way.
In a full sprint, Nabors leapt in the air and headed the ball 5 yards outside of the penalty box to over the top of the goalie’s hands and directly into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with 19:35 to play in the game.
“I honestly didn’t even think I was going to get it. I was just jumping because that’s what I’m supposed to do. So I mean it just happened to go in the net. I mean, I challenge every ball and it went in.”
To that point, Indian Springs had controlled much of the game, but Russellville took the goal as a wakeup call.
The Golden Tigers got four good shots on goal over the next eight minutes to threaten.
But not converting became costly with the aggressive play, as Nabors was waiting for his moment with little defense back to guard him.
That moment came with 11:11 to play in the opening half.
Again, a ball was sent far down the field for him to catch up to, and he did just that. In another full-on sprint, he just beat a defender to the ball, and got a clean kick on it to squeeze it by the keeper for his second goal in less than 10 minutes to make it 2-0.
“I actually saw (the defender) coming and take a step back so I said ‘I’m just going to go around him,’” Nabors said of his move to get the ball. “That’s exactly what I did and the ball bounced right over him and I just put it in.”
That was big for momentum with Russellville seemingly gaining momentum and Springs squashing it with that goal to put them in a two-goal hole at the half.
“We know Russellville is a great team, so the fact that we could score early just really upped our game tonight,” Nabors said.
And that’s when Indian Springs was able to get back to its game plan for the majority of the season in the second half.
Both goals had already come off counter attacks despite controlling the ball much of the first half, but with a 2-0 advantage, Springs focused on defending.
“I think all year, we’ve defended and countered, and that’s what you saw tonight. Sometimes you have to play to your strengths, not worry about how pretty it is and that’s what we did,” Tozzi said.
That led to Russellville controlling the ball the majority of the second half and getting several opportunities, but the Indian Springs back line and goalie made play after play to impact shots.
Confident after giving up just 10 goals all season, Indian Springs went on to finish off the shutout victory as Russellville never could convert on opportunities.
“I don’t even know what to say, honestly. I’m speechless right now,” Nabors said after the win. “Yeah, I might have scored the goals, but I could not have done it without every single one of my teammates, especially in the back. It means so much.”
For Tozzi, who has been the coach for 20 years at Indian Springs, he’s not only made it to 11 Final Fours, six state championships and now won four titles, but he’s won a state championship with both of his sons.
In 2017, he won with Jim Tozzi and this year, he and Nathan Tozzi brought home the blue map.
“I had them both last year and thought we were going to make a run, and my oldest graduated,” the head coach said. “It’s a little emotional. To win one with each of your sons, you can never dream of that. It’s kind of what they write books about. It means more to me than him right now, right, he’s 17, that’s the way kids are. But when he gets older and sees that trophy, he’ll think ‘Oh man, I won that with my dad.’ It’s special.”
Indian Springs will return all but one player next year, and they’re already looking forward to defending their title after this year’s storybook ending.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.