Taylor County feeling the love

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Soccer fever has officially hit town.
Perry, which had a population of less than 7,000 in the year 2000, has come out in full force to support the Taylor County girls soccer team, which is in the process of making history.
Before this year, the Bulldogs (14-7) had never won a district title outright. They had never gone undefeated in district play, and they had never advanced to the second round of regionals. The girls managed to accomplish all these feats, and the people of Perry are recognizing their accomplishments.
"It seems like everywhere you go, folks are talking about Perry soccer," assistant coach Doug Cantrell said. Cantrell has had people come up and congratulate him at church, the bakery, Wal-Mart and local eating establishments. He's even seen a couple billboards congratulating the girls on their season.
"It's exciting how much our town has gotten into it this year," junior Jenni Cantrell said.
The enthusiasm showed at Taylor County's regional quarterfinal match against South Walton. More than 400 people turned out to watch the Bulldogs defeat South Walton, 6-0. Usually only about 75 people will show up to watch the games. During halftime, the girls even talked about how many people were watching them play.
"It was very new to us," Jenni Cantrell said. "Never have I been in front of a (home) crowd like that before."
"It's been gratifying," head coach Kerry Puhl said. "In 12 years, I've never seen a crowd like that."
Puhl said the team's success has a lot to do with Taylor County Middle School starting a soccer program.
"I think part of our success is due to TCMS principal Paul Dyal, who established a middle school soccer program," Puhl said.
With another home playoff game against Jacksonville Bolles today, the Bulldogs will try to advance to the regional finals. It's fitting that Taylor County would reach these heights in Puhl's 12th and final season as head coach. Puhl has been with the team since its inception. To send him out on a high note is a fitting tribute to a coach that has helped build the team.
"It's kind of like a Cinderella story," Doug Cantrell said.
CLASS 3A Jacksonville Bolles (18-4-2) at Taylor County (14-7), Today at 7 p.m.
PREVIEW: Taylor County looks to continue a magical season with a home playoff game against perennial powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles. The team has captured the first outright district championship in school history and has advanced to the second round for the first time ever. Sophomore Katie Cooper, who leads the team with 36 goals, injured her leg in last week's playoff win. It looks like she'll be able to play in the match, but likely won't be at 100 percent.
CLASS 2A Oak Hall (11-8-3) at Tallahassee Maclay (17-2-2), Today at 7 p.m.
PREVIEW: Oak Hall won its regional contest with Jacksonville Providence, 1-0, last Thursday. The Eagles got the only goal from freshman Kallie Mitchener late in the second half. Goalie Morgan Johnson recorded a shutout, but only had to stop two shots. Johnson will probably be challenged more by Maclay, which scored nine goals in its victory over Bozeman. Maclay holds a 1-0-1 advantage over Oak Hall this season.

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