Posted: Friday, May 11th 2012 at 11:59pm
Soccer: Red Elephants semifinal bound after 4-0 shutout of Columbus
By Morgan Lee Editor
Members of the Gainesville boys soccer team celebrate after a goal in a game played earlier this season.
GAINESVILLE -- The state playoffs aren't supposed to get easier with each round.
The Gainesville boys soccer team sure is making it look that way, however.
The Red Elephants rolled to a 4-0 win over Columbus on Friday in the Class AAA quarterfinals at City Park in Gainesville, running out to a 3-0 first half lead.
The victory followed a 1-0 first round win and a 3-0 second round defeat of Howard on Tuesday. (NOTE: To see all scores for area teams from Friday's quarterfinals and a look at Saturday's quarterfinal schedule, simply scroll down.)
“We’re definitely improving quite a bit with every game,” Red Elephants senior midfielder Aidan Reising said. “That’s what you have to do if you want to go as far as we want to go and win a state title.”
To do that, fourth-ranked Gainesville (18-1-1) knows it will have to step up its game even more on Tuesday, as a visit from perennial power St. Pius looms in Tuesday's semifinal match at City Park.
“That’s going to be a huge challenge,” Red Elephants coach Rick Howard said of facing a Golden Lions team that knocked Gainesville from the playoffs in last year’s second round. “And we’ve got a lot to improve on and keep working on. But we’ve got a chance to do that, and we’ll see how things go.”
The Red Elephants’ game didn’t appear to require much tweaking in Friday’s defeat of No. 5 Columbus (16-3-1) -- certainly not in a first half that saw Gainesville score just four minutes into the contest. The opening seconds also provided a critical moment for the visitors, when Columbus defender and captain Paul Anderson was ejected for a foul on Red Elephants attacker Yunis Yanes after the Gainesville senior surged toward the Blue Devils’ goal and was brought down by Anderson -- the last defender aside from Columbus goalkeeper Sam Dunton.
The foul triggered a straight red card for Anderson and forced the Blue Devils to play a man down. It also led to Columbus’ playing a goal down, as the Red Elephants scored off the ensuing free kick -- Ricardo Gomez blasting a shot that Dunton could not hold, the rebound spilling right to Reising for an easy tally.
“A red card like that is tough because it takes you out of your gameplan, especially right at the start like that,” Howard said. “Give Columbus credit. They ran their legs off and were really solid; even a man down they had some opportunities.”
The Blue Devils’ attacks proved few and far between, however, as the Red Elephants took advantage of the extra man to maintain possession and keep Dunton’s goal under pressure.
Yanes eventually doubled Gainesville’s advantage, scoring for a 2-0 lead with 27 minutes left in the first half. Gomez then got on the score sheet, making it 3-0 with 15 minutes left until the interval.
“We’ve really worked on our finishing over the past few practices, and I think that’s paying off for us,” Reising said.
Gainesville continued to look for goals in the second half, creating two near-misses -- the first coming when Douglas Mejia ripped an 18-yard shot right at Dunton 10 minutes into the restart. Roman Arriaga then headed over the Columbus goal after a pinpoint cross from Omar Campos with 22 minutes remaining.
Arriaga wouldn’t miss a second time however, slamming home a close-range shot for a 4-0 lead with 20:59 remaining.
“We’re playing together really well right now; everyone is showing good touch and good communication,” Mejia said. “But we still have to improve a lot (to win next week).”
Kickoff for the semifinal match is still to be determined.
FRIDAY'S STATE QUARTERFINAL SCORES FOR AREA TEAMS
Gainesville boys 4, Columbus 0
Lovett boys 5, East Hall 1
Atlanta International boys 3, Riverside Military 2
SATURDAY'S STATE QUARTERFINAL SCHEUDLE FOR AREA TEAMS
Gainesville girls vs. Carrollton, 6 p.m.
Buford girls vs. Jackson County, 1 p.m.
Dawson County girls vs. Dawson County, 6 p.m.
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