SUWANEE — Faced with an opponent looking to limit its quality scoring chances, Collins Hill had to pick its spots in its second-round Class AAAAA state playoff game with Luella.
Amiri Abraham chose wisely twice, posting two first-half goals to give the Eagles an early working margin en route to a 4-1 victory Tuesday night at Collins Hill.
The win puts the Eagles (15-4) into the state quarterfinals for the fifth straight year, where they will play host to Camden County on Friday.
From the beginning of the game, Luella (11-7) signaled its game plan by packing as many as six-to-eight players in the defensive end, but it didn’t take long for Collins Hill to find space in the defense.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen that,” Collins Hill coach Drew Prentice said. “(Luella) definitely sat back a little bit. But I thought we kept the ball very well. We weren’t making too many mistakes in the back.
“Getting goals fairly early in the first half was something we talked about. … We just wanted to make sure we scored early.”
The Eagles had some close calls in the first 10 minutes when Abraham headed a right-wing cross from Jordan Brust just over the crossbar and Edan Mendoza’s long through ball found its way to Emmanuel Raji in the penalty area before Lions goalkeeper Jacob Lunn made the save.
But not quite 10 minutes later, Abraham and the Eagles broke through on a set piece.
Nomis Cisic sent a left-wing corner kick into the penalty area, where Abraham headed it home to put Collins Hill in front 1-0 with 30:14 left to play in the first half.
The Eagles had plenty more chances over the rest of the half, and finally struck paydirt again late in the opening frame.
After a Luella defender slipped and accidentally handled the ball in the penalty area, Abraham buried the penalty kick in the upper right 90 to extend the Collins Hill lead to 2-0 with 13:17 left in the half.
About the only offense Luella managed in the half came in the 37th minute, when Andres Cuervo sent a free kick from 35 yards out into the penalty area.
But goalkeeper Zaki Colabawala punched the shot harmlessly out, and the Eagles took the two-goal lead into intermission.
It took a little longer for Collins Hill to add to its lead in the second half, but Zach Jones finally did when he corralled the rebound of Lunn’s diving save of Brust’s rocket from the 18-yard mark and booted it home to make the score 3-0 with 17:08 remaining.
Hunter Boyle then made it 4-0 by deflecting Edan Mendoza’s corner kick with 14:31 left, but Luella kept fighting against the Collins Hill reserves.
Christian Duncan made a long run up the middle and popped the ball over a charging goalkeeper Nick Nelson before tapping the ball into the net with exactly four minutes remaining, but the Eagles still had the game in hand.
“(Collins Hill) is a quality opponent,” Luella coach Nick Ellis said. “They’ve been a quality opponent for the last (five) years. We didn’t do anything different from what we’ve been doing. … We’ve got a good group of guys back there trying to flush the ball out and force it to the outside. But they’ve got some really good finishers and they beat us on a couple of set pieces. … But the boys really, really played hard.”
— David Friedlander, Gwinnett Daily Post
Marist 2, Forest Park 1
Forest Park couldn’t clear a corner kick, and it cost them.
The Panthers gave Marist too many chances, and the War Eagles made them pay, converting on a third corner kick within minutes to survive in the Class AAAA second round in double overtime.
Marist capitalized off a Forest Park mistake to take an early 1-0. The Panthers (15-3) got the equalizer from Rafael Martinez in the 40th minute.
But Forest Park couldn’t handle Marist’s size advantage, particularly on set plays. It cost them in double overtime.
“Set plays are tough to defend against bigger teams,” Forest Park coach Jonathan White said. “In the end, you’ve just got to hang in there for 90 minutes. I’m real proud of our team, but the guys are just devastated now.”
Tucker 1, Dutchtown 0
The Bulldogs gave up the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute and lost at Tucker in the second round of the Class AAAA tournament.
Dutchtown finishes its season 10-5.
The Bulldogs hoped to break through the quarterfinals for the first time in school history with a large group of experienced seniors.
“It’s rough.” Dutchtown coach Justin Smith said. “They played their hearts out. They really tried to get it back. Just not enough time. Of course, the seniors are really down.”
St. Pius 11, Drew 1
The Titans took an early lead, but couldn’t withstand the Golden Lions’ offense and lost on the road in the second round of the Class AAA tournament.
Drew finishes its season 11-5-1.
Titans forward Shem Ogunbunmi scored to give Drew an early 1-0 lead. But the Titans had no answer for the defending state champions, who feature two Division I signees and bevy of championship experience and talent.
By halftime, St. Pius (16-2-1) led 5-1.
“We just didn’t control possession the way we needed to,” Drew coach Danielle Cogbill said.
Despite the loss, Cogbill noted all the milestones Drew reached this season — the program’s first state playoff victory and first college signees. Ogunbunmi and defender Tunde Adedoyin have signed with Tennessee Temple.
“We went one round further than last season. We have two players with full ride scholarships. Those are the things we’re looking for,” Cogbill said. “We’ve got to keep building on that.”