FORT PAYNE – Rafael Robles had a good feeling going into the AHSAA Class 6A boys soccer second round match Tuesday.
The Fort Payne junior had seldom seen playing time this season, but he knew he could have a big game against Southside.
Robles scored two goals to complete his self-fulfilling prophecy in a 5-1 victory over the Panthers to advance to the round of eight.
“I was feeling since the morning I was going to play good,” Robles said. “I was telling my teammates I was feeling good. I felt I was going to do good in the game. I told my friend to tell the coach to put me in more.”
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Robles scored a goal in the 20th minute to put Fort Payne (12-7-2) ahead 2-0. He later added a goal in the waning moments of the match, putting the Wildcats comfortably ahead by four goals with under 3 minutes left.
Kai Stolp, Nixon Mayen and Chris Rocha Luna also added goals for the Wildcats. Abdullah Alabassi scored the lone goal for Southside (12-6-2).
“It was a nice feeling,” Robles said of his performance. “I was trying and trying to get better in each practice.”
Robles playing a larger than usual role was by design, according to Fort Payne coach Michael Farmer.
“I knew going into this game we needed to sub a lot because of the heat and we knew the pace the game was going to play,” Farmer said. “We knew they were going to come in with energy. The gameplan the whole time was to sub.”
Southside coach Randy Vice told Farmer the bench, including Robles, was the reason Fort Payne was able to pull off the victory.
The Wildcats also beat Southside last season in the second round.
“It was pretty big for (Robles),” Fort Payne’s Christian Barrientos said. “He doesn’t get playing time, but he got some playing time and got to show his potential. Hopefully he gets to play more in the third round.”
The Wildcats will be making their seventh quarterfinals appearance since 2011. They have two championships (2011 and 2015) in that span.
Not including the 2020 season, which was canceled due to COVID, Fort Payne reached at least the semifinals for three straight seasons.
Fort Payne lost to Homewood, 3-0, in the semifinals last season. It lost to Homewood, 3-0, in the finals in 2019 and, 2-1, to St. Pauls in the finals in 2018.
“We just have been playing like we have over the years,” Barrientos said. “We just keep developing.”
The Wildcats will play Randolph in the quarterfinals. It will be the third matchup between the Area 15 foes this season.
The Raiders won the first two matchups 2-1 and 4-1.
Fort Payne beat Randolph 2-1 last season in the quarterfinals.
“We need to play like we did this game, plus more,” Robles said. “Last time, we weren’t focused on that game. We just need to play harder and not give the ball up.”
Robles added it wouldn’t hurt the team’s chances if the coaches continue to give him more opportunities.
Contact Ehsan Kassim at 256-300-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim.