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Gomez, Gainesville boys shut out West Hall, 3-0

Red Elephants captain tallies two goals, assist

POSTED: March 7, 2014 11:06 p.m.

With seven boys soccer teams in Hall County ranked in the top 10 of their respective classifications, the level of competition doesn’t drop off when two local squads meet for a non-region affair.

Friday’s game in Oakwood was no exception. A top-10 battle between longtime rivals and former region foes, Class AAAAA’s seventh-ranked Gainesville kept Class AAA’s fourth-ranked West Hall off the scoreboard with a 3-0 victory.

Ricardo Gomez scored a pair of goals and assisted on another as the Red Elephants (6-1-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) shut out the first of three Hall County teams they’ll face this season.

“I miss the Hall County region,” Gainesville coach Rick Howard said. “I miss when we were all together, because it’s very competitive and there’s a lot of pride. I love coming down here, I love hosting them at City Park. There’s an atmosphere, there’s a better crowd. The kids rise up to it.”

With the Red Elephants up 1-0 at halftime, Erik Bonilla scored on a header off Gomez’s corner kick in the 55th minute, shifting the game heavily in Gainesville’s favor.

Gomez all but secured the Red Elephants’ victory with a successful penalty kick three minutes later, awarded to his team after tempers flared and the two teams had to be separated near the left corner of the West Hall net. The Spartans (4-2-2) left the altercation with a yellow card.

The Gainesville captain fired a low shot to the left of West Hall goalkeeper Wilkin Velasquez, who was unable to make a diving save.

“I have to give (West Hall) a lot of credit,” Howard said. “The way they were coming at us in the first half, they spread us out too much.

“They’re a good team. I’m happy with the result, but it could’ve gone the other way very quickly.”

Gomez scored the lone goal of the first half in the 31st minute, firing a free kick from the sideline roughly 25 yards from the goal.

The ball arced with just enough room to avoid the glove of Velasquez and pierce the top right corner of the net.

“It was magic,” Howard said. “It just dipped. That’s what you look for when you see shots like that.”

Gainesville returns to Region 8-AAAAA action with a string of region games over the next two weeks. The Red Elephants host Loganville on Tuesday.

West Hall opens Region 7-AAA play Tuesday against Buford in Oakwood.

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 5, WEST HALL 4: Alyssa Turner’s breakaway goal with 4:23 remaining completed a four-goal rally for the Lady Red Elephants (6-0-1) in the second half of Friday’s non-region contest.

Jazmin Penado scored twice in the second half and assisted on Turner’s go-ahead goal to turn a 4-1 halftime deficit into Gainesville’s sixth straight win.

“I know we scored the goals and that was the highlight, but defensively we really shut them down in the second half,” Lady Red Elephants coach Mark Wade said. “That’s about the first time this season that I can absolutely say we stopped a team.”

Margaret Carpenter kick-started Gainesville’s second-half surge with a corner that bounced into the net in the 49th minute, cutting the Lady Red Elephants’ deficit to 4-2.

Fifteen minutes later, Penado deflected Carpenter’s free kick for her second score of the night, then knotted the game with eight minutes left by heading in another corner by Carpenter.

Turner did the rest, beating West Hall’s defenders on Penado’s pass and burying the shot.

“It’s an extremely talented group — we just have to learn what we’re capable of,” Wade said. “I have 14 freshmen and sophomores on this team, and only two seniors. We’re growing together. It’s a really fun group to coach, though.”

Elizabeth Fischer scored Gainesville’s only goal of the first half in 32nd minute, which tied the game at one.

Gabrielle Ligas and Katie Forrester scored twice apiece for West Hall (2-5-1), with each player assisting once.

The Lady Spartans scored three goals in the final 4 ½ minutes of the first half, including two by Forrester.

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