FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Fort Payne boys soccer team beat Montgomery Academy to win their first state championship since 2015 and junior forward Cristian Barrientos was a big reason why.

Barrientos kicked the game-winning goal for the Wildcats and finished with three goals and the hat trick to earn Class 6A MVP honors.

“Multiple times he was a clutch scorer in a lot of the games we played this year and the state finals speak for itself,” Wildcats’ head coach Tom Shanklin said. “I don’t many people who have singlehandedly scored four goals in the state finals especially with the go-ahead win like he did. He’s instrumental to what this team does and how they do. He’s one of the most explosive players in the state of Alabama and certainly one of the fastest.”

After falling short the past couple seasons, Barrientos and the Wildcats were on a mission to win a state title in 2023 and Barrientos is thrilled he finally got to hoist the blue map high with this group of guys.

“We’ve been trying to do it since 7th grade and it’s just unbelievable finally reaching that goal,” Barrientos said. “We’ve all wanted to do it but it’s just a good feeling after losing two years in a row and finally winning it it’s a pretty good feeling. I feel like we’re more of a family than just teammates and it’s just a special team and winning state with them is a good feeling.”

Shanklin says they’re thankful to have Barrientos wearing the Fort Payne uniform because of the young man he is both on and off the field.

“That young man has had to fight through his fair share of adversity and he’s always shined, had the right attitude and just been pleasant to be around,” Shanklin said. “Definitely puts in the work, is very respectful and absolutely has the right attitude going into anything. He’s someone you certainly want to be armed up with and side by side going into anything like we just experienced.”

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