By Zack Huffman
Westside (Augusta) coach Brian Holcomb stood at the end of Twelve Oaks Stadium, circled by his team.
It was half time and with a 3-1 deficit against Forest Park, Holcomb was pleading with his squad to tighten up its game after struggling through the first half.
Although the Westside Patriots jumped into the second half to capture control of the ball and score a second goal, they were never able to get past Forest Park's three-goal hump.
Despite allowing the Patriots to get back into the game, the Panthers simply held on longer than Westside was able to, scoring two more goals to give Forest Park its first state playoff win in school history, 5-2.
"We made history. I'm certainly happy about that," said Forest Park coach Ken Walkington. "We've got to tighten up a few things. It was spotty at times, but I was really pleased with the play."
School pride aside, the players dedicated the win to Walkington's wife Joy Walkington, who is currently recuperating from a brain trauma injury.
The Panthers came into the game seeded No. 1 out of 4-AAAA, but the region title came at the cost of Raymundo Mireles and goalkeeper Jamarco Clark having to play injured and defender Andres Elias who may be out for the season with an ankle injury.
"I'm hoping we can get him back. He's a good kid," said Walkington.
Forest Park took control of the game from the beginning, but was unable to punctuate that control with any successful goals.
Within the first 20 minutes of the game, Forest Park took six shots without a single one scoring.
Westside made their lack of early possessions count. Runar Stoa scored on a cross-shot to the left with 20:10 on the clock.
Forest Park answered within two minutes when Enrique Salgado led the ball down the middle before making a quick pass to Alejandro Perez who hit the goal from the left.
The Panthers took the lead a minute and half later when the ball was brought back into play with a pass to Perez who scored his second goal of the game.
With just over ten minutes left in the first half, Andres Morales took a shot from mid-field that was stopped by Westside goalkeeper Chris Larkin.
Morales followed up by recapturing the ball and taking it up close before bouncing the ball off the goalie's side for a third Forest Park goal.
"Honestly, I think it killed us in the second half," said assistant coach Jonathan White who explained that Forest Park assumed it would easily racked up more points in the second half. "We came out not playing our game. I think it gave the other team more momentum."
The second half started with both teams slowing down the pace with neither side generating much success in terms of goal production.
Forest Park continued to set itself up for shots, but still struggled to send the ball home.
As the 20-minute mark approached, Westside took control of the ball offensively, slicing through Forest Park's defense, putting Josh Davis in position to score a second goal with 16:59 on the clock.
Both teams matched each other's play for the next ten minutes.
As the game wound down, Forest Park carefully worked the ball down the right side of the field.
Less than three minutes remained on the clock when Israel Fernandez passed to Salgado who punched in the shot to push Forest Park ahead 4-2.
"The minutes were against them so they started to press. When they started to press they were making more mistakes," said Walkington of Westside. "We finally put one in and they knew it was over. That's when the rough stuff happened. Fortunately we were able to keep our kids from getting involved with that stuff."
Westside's Josh Edmunds knocked down Morales with a leg sweep, earning a red card. Westside fouled again to give Martin Toledo a penalty kick opportunity on which he capitalized to score the final goal of the game with 0:13 left.
"Toledo made a PK to make up for one that he missed earlier in the year, so that's good," said Walkington, who joked that we would only allow Toledo to miss a single PK per year.