Posted: Saturday, March 1st 2014 at 3:36am
Soccer: West Hall boys, Flowery Branch girls pick up wins, momentum
By Morgan Lee Editor
West Hall's Simon Cobian, center, looks for rrom to dribble against Flowery Branch in the Spartans' 5-2 win on Friday in Flowery Branch.
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Tim Gale says his team is still learning its way through the early part of the season.
If that is indeed the case, the West Hall boys soccer team might be downright scary by the end of the campaign.
The fifth-ranked Spartans looked far more than just a work-in-progress at Falcon Field, as they scored four first half goals over a five-minute span en route to a 5-2 win over Flowery Branch.
Make no mistake West Hall is not starting from scratch. The defending Region 7-AAA champs return plenty of talent from last year’s second round playoff squad -- including Omar Castillo, who burned the Falcons for two goals and two assists in Friday -- but with a new head coach and a young season, the Spartans (4-1) are still experimenting a little before the 7-AAA campaign gets underway.
Gale certainly liked what he saw on Friday.
“It was good to get our team playing as it can play,” said Gale, whose team was coming off its first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Lanier on Tuesday. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better each game. Tonight we shifted another player into attack, and it worked.”
Indeed -- though the Spartans had to show some mental fortitude before they could show off their attacking firepower after Flowery Branch caught the Spartans with a counter attack just four minutes into the contest.
Seconds after West Hall’s Jordan Moreno drove the Spartans’ first real shot off the Flowery Branch goal post, the Falcons sprinted up the right wing via Joey Brett, who crossed for Nick Biasi in the West Hall penalty area. Biasi made no mistake, burying a 12-yard shot into the West Hall net for a 1-0 lead with 35:37 left in the half.
The goal buoyed the home side, which fought bravely in defense throughout, but the Spartans regrouped and began to put Flowery Branch under consistent pressure -- which appeared ready to pay off when Simon Cobian earned a penalty kick after a foul in the area with 24 minutes left in the half. Yet Falcons goalkeeper Cade Minton proved up to the task, diving low and to his left to deny Cobian’s attempt and preserve his team’s lead.
West Hall’s persistence finally turned into a goal flood just before the interval, however, and Castillo opened the dam with 8:47 remaining. The Spartans’ captain pounced on a Flowery Branch defensive error, running on to a fluffed clearance attempt before slamming a 16-yard shot past a stranded Minton to knot the score.
Less than two minutes later, Castillo put the visitors in front. This time the West Hall attacker made the goal almost single-handedly, running on to a deep, angled cross in the Flowery Branch penalty area and cutting back into the middle -- beating two defenders in the process -- before burying an 18-yard shot into the top corner for a 2-1 score.
Cesar Villa and Samuel Coto rounded out the late surge for West Hall, Villa poking a cross from Castillo into the net from close range, before Coto almost literally copied Villa’s strike for a 4-1 halftime advantage.
“We’ve been getting chances all season,” Gale said. “And it was good to see us taking them tonight.”
Flowery Branch (2-2) tried to force its way back into the contest after the interval -- and West Hall gave the Falcons some help, as a miscommunication in defense turned a Brett free kick into a Spartans own-goal just two minutes after the restart.
“With all the weather issues so far it’s been hard for us to get going, but we’re finally coming together,” Gale said. “We’ve got three big non-region games next week, so that will continue the building process for us, hopefully.”
The Spartans will travel to Johns Creek on Tuesday and North Forsyth on Wednesday before playing host to Gainesville on Friday.
Flowery Branch, meanwhile, will look to bounce back against Johnson on Saturday at home. The boys contest will follow the girls game, which will begin at 4 p.m. – boys game at 6 p.m.
FLOWERY BRANCH GIRLS 2,
WEST HALL 0
Madeline McCarthy and Corrie Thomas scored to help the Lady Falcons continue to build momentum on the season on Friday in Flowery Branch.
McCarthy struck in the first half, while Thomas bagged her goal in the second half, as the Lady Falcons got the better of a physical and taught showdown between non-region rivals.
“It was intense; the girld played hard on both sides, and it was good to get a win in a game like that,” Lady Falcons coach Katie Scali said.
McCarthy gave Flowery Branch (2-1-1) the lead after being shifted from defense to attack.
“Madeline can play anywhere, and that’s been big for us because we’ve already been dealing with a few injuries here and there,” Scali said.
The Lady Falcons defense maintained the shutout against the Lady Spartans (2-2-1), including an impressive goal-line clearance from Aneesa Jones, a freshman defender that reacted first to a goal-bound shot after West Hall lofted a free kick into the Flowery Branch penalty area. The loose ball created havoc and a deflected shot appeared goal-bound until Jones’ timely interception with 12 minutes remaining.
“Aneesa has been a great edition for the team,” Scali said. “She’s already made some great stops for us this season, and she’s really aggressive.”
After battling the stop-start nature of the season -- which has been hijacked by winter weather at times -- Scali hopes her team can now begin to develop some consistency.
“We should have played three more games by now,” Scali said. “It’s been frustrating, but we’ve been getting better each game, and we’re coming along.”
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