Oak Mountain soccer
Oak Mountain's John Long (6) and Chad Jeter (10) celebrated after Long netted the Eagles' first goal of the season on Monday, Feb. 13, at Vestavia Hills' Thompson Reynolds Stadium.
VESTAVIA -- It was a fitting end to a hard-fought game.
After falling into an early 2-0 hole, the Oak Mountain High School boys soccer team netted a pair of second-half goals to salvage a 2-2 draw against Vestavia Hills in Monday night's season opener at Thompson Reynolds Stadium.
"It wasn't as good as we wanted it, but it was a good fight in the second half," Oak Mountain head coach Dan DeMasters said. "We played the second half like we should have played the first half."
Vestavia scored twice in the first 16 minutes of play on goals from Davis Bryant and Clayton Bowden. The Rebels' first strike came less than 30 seconds into the game.
"We may have just caught them flat-footed. We were just excited to play them," Vestavia head coach Leo Harlan said. "I think the same thing happened the second half. They caught us flat-footed, so they equalized it pretty quick."
Oak Mountain's John Long and Chad Jeter accounted for their team's second-half tallies. Long laced a low shot past Vestavia goalkeeper Andrew Edwards less than 60 seconds after the intermission. 10 minutes later, Jeter found the back of the net on an acrobatic bicycle kick.
"I just told the guys I'm looking for the guys that are going to play with some grit," DeMasters said of his halftime speech. "A 2-0 lead is just a very dangerous thing, so I said if we can get the first goal we'll get some momentum."
Oak Mountain threatened throughout the final 30 minutes of action, but the Eagles weren't able to produce a go-ahead goal. Still, it was an improvement from the first half, when Vestavia controlled the flow of the game.
"I don't doubt the character of our team, and I think it showed in the second half," DeMasters said.
The Oak Mountain and Vestavia programs have distinguished themselves as the class of the state in recent years. Collectively, the Eagles and Rebels have split the past four state championships. Oak Mountain claimed blue trophies in 2015 and 2016. Vestavia won in 2013 and 2014.
Notably, the Eagles ended last spring's campaign as the top-ranked team in the country. They knocked off Vestavia in the second round of the 2016 Class 7A state playoffs, 1-0.
"They're the No. 1 team, so it's going to be really tough to beat them," Harlan said after Monday's game. "We've got to play better to beat them."
The Rebels will return to action on Friday at home against Dalton (Ga.) High School. Oak Mountain will host James Clemens on Tuesday, Feb. 21.