Posted: Saturday, March 16th 2013 at 2:03am
Soccer: Castillo stokes Spartans offense in top 10 defeat of Buford
By Morgan Lee Editor
West Hall soccer players swarm Omar Castillo, center, after his second goal of the game in the Spartans' 5-2 defeat of Buford on Friday in Buford.
BUFORD -- West Hall's Omar Castillo knew well the weight involved in Friday's top 10 showdown at Buford.
But if the sophomore felt even the slightest twinge of nerves, it was impossible to tell by his performance.
Castillo was on target from the outset, pouncing for the game's opening goal just 1 minute, 2 seconds into the contest, a stunning strike that led to a hat trick on the night and jumpstarted an impressive 5-2 victory that put the Spartans at the forefront of the race for the Region 7-AAA title.
"Before the game, coach told us this was the biggest game of our lives so far," Castillo said. "We were ready for this. I was just thinking about taking quick shots. You can't think in these situations, you just shoot."
Castillo's scoring instincts caught the Wolves' defense by surprise on three occasions in the first half, twice taking advantage of missed clearances before wrapping up his goal haul with a highlight-reel, 25-yard blast that swerved into the Buford net from 25 yards.
The third-ranked Spartans (9-0, 3-0 Region 7-AAA) capped their dominating start with a goal from Pedro Perez late in the first half before the fifth-ranked Wolves (5-2, 0-1) pulled one back to trail 4-1 at the half.
Castillo helped ensure there would be no comeback, however, turning provider in the second half to help West Hall to a 5-1 lead when his cross found Ramsis Martinez unmarked in front of the Wolves goal for an an easy putaway with 37:05 left in the contest.
"He's one of those magicians; he's young and he's talented, and he's a big help to this team," Spartans coach Andrew McCain said of Castillo. "And as good as he is at striker, he's even more dangerous in midfield because he's unselfish, and he's always looking to pass the ball. We pulled him back into midfield tonight, and he played well for us there too."
Buford looked set to make homefield advantage pay off early, carrying the attack to West Hall in the opening seconds, but the Spartans caught the Wolves off balance when West Hall defender Johan Corona launched a long ball forward that initially looked easy bait for Buford's defense. Yet the Wolves couldn't clear the danger and Castillo alertly darted into the Buford penalty area and buried the loose ball with a first-touch shot for a 1-0 lead with 38:58 left in the half.
Stunned but determined, the Wolves continued to press forward and forced an acrobatic save from West Hall keeper Frankie Vasquez on a 22-yard chip from Gerardo Silva. But the near miss was one of the few highlights of the first half for Buford, which was caught again on the counter just seven minutes into the contest, Castillo again running on to a loose ball that the striker knocked in from 16 yards for a 2-0 lead.
The early momentum swing proved all that West Hall needed, as the Spartans began to make use of their speed to dictate play and wrest control away from the Wolves.
"It's psychological; once we get a goal in the net it gives us the edge we need," McCain said. "Usually we're a passing team that likes to move through the midfield and distribute, but tonight the counter attack really worked for us, so we went with it, especially early."
Almost 10 minutes later Perez added his own strike, scoring off a corner kick to help the Spartans take full control of the contest at 4-0.
Buford refused to yield, however, as Constantino Torres ran on to a long throw-in from Conner Regan to head home from point-blank range with 3:43 remaining before the interval. But the momentum proved shortlived after the half, and Castillo again proved the tormentor, beating one defender to the corner flag and drawing two others out before whipping a low cross to Martinez for a 5-1 advantage.
The Wolves continued to battle and were rewarded with a Jose Aguirre goal with 5:02 remaining, but the strike proved too late to unsettle the Spartans, who were glad to take the victory into their next two contests -- against region and top 10 foes Dawson County and East Hall.
"The intensity will continue next week," McCain said. "But that was a crucial win for us, and we needed the momentum because it's not going to get any easier."
West Hall will have a week to rest before taking on East Hall on March 22 in Rabbittown.
Buford will look to rebound on Tuesday against White County at home.
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