High School Soccer

Hawks hold off rival Lions for win, No. 2 seed

by Chris Goltermann

The temperature was a bit warmer, but otherwise Thursday's second soccer showdown between rivals Trinity Christian and The Heritage School played nearly identical to the first nearly a month earlier at Trinity's stadium in levels that ranged from both excitement and intensity all the way down to the final 3-2 score.

And once again, the Hawks found a way to hold on to a victory after a deadlock following 80 minutes of play.

With second-place in GISA Region 1-AAA and a first-round state home playoff game on the line, both lineups traded twogoal spurts on opposite sides of halftime before the game-winner came bouncing to the feet of Heritage's Carlisle Taylor in front of a wide open net with 2:25 left in the first overtime period.

'I couldn't be more proud of these guys,' Heritage School coach Nathan Watts said after his team improved its overall record to 11-2. 'Our seniors have really become the leaders of this team.'

Taylor was the beneficiary from a broken play between Lion defender Chris Okapara and keeper Josiah Gordon on a ball headed into the 18-yard box with the Hawks freshman on Okapara's heels as the three converged.

A clearing attempt ricocheted between the three and caromed back to an open Taylor, who only needed to take an extra dribble forward before depositing a shot into the open Trinity goal.

It was enough for the Hawks to thwart a fierce comeback in the final nine minutes of regulation by Trinity, who after being held scoreless for 70 minutes by Heritage keeper Cole Jones, scored twice in a span of 2:29 to tie the game at 2-2.

'This is our third heartbreaker of the year,' Trinity head coach Chad Whittle said.

Heritage's boys program clinched a GISA postseason berth for the first time in six years as well as its first home soccer playoff game in school history, allowing the Hawks to play a doubleheader with the girls - a 12-0 winner over the Lady Lions on Thursday - next week. Both teams enter the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed.

Goals by David Martin and David Barber just 10 minutes apart early in the first half put Heritage out in front 2-0. Martin broke in alone on Gordon off the left side to put Heritage ahead in the 11th minute before Barber launched a direct kick high over Trinity's wall into the net from the front of the 18-yard box nearly 10 minutes later.

But it essentially gave the Hawks a three-goal advantage in the standings at that moment considering the 3-2 decision on March 26 among goal differential.

Heritage junior keeper Cole Jones, meanwhile, gobbled up every ball that came his direction for 70 minutes including a loose ball of a corner and a point-blank save off Jordan Flagg's volley in the first half.

Hawks defenders Tanner Brandner, Hayden Robinson, Trevor Sawyers and David Bready were equally stingy while keeping the Lions off the scoreboard through the majority of regulation.

But Trinity was able to break its scoring drought when talented midfielder Keith Lyons was taken down inside the box, and the Lions junior followed through with the ensuing penalty kick to cut the Hawks' lead in half.

It seemed to ignite Trinity's lineup, with all the momentum surging in the Lions direction. Much like Taylor's gamewinner, Lion Korey McGinnis took advantage of a defensive mistake when Brandner failed to get his foot on a ball at the front of the box, breaking in on Jones for the tying goal.

The rangy 6-foot-3 keeper, known as 'Spider-Man' to his teammates, helped keep Heritage from a total collapse in the closing minutes with three key saves. None were bigger than a sliding stop with his leg when Lyons broke in alone off the right side in the 77th minute.

VILLA RICA GIRLS 3, NORTHGATE 2: The Lady Wildcats stunned the Lady Vikings in a non-region game decided by penalty kicks. No other information was available at deadline.



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