When it comes to regular-season gauntlets, the East Hall boys have fared as well as anyone in the state.
The fourth-ranked Vikings (11-4-1, 5-1 Region 8-4A) have produced elite results in a classification with all four representatives to the state tournament (No. 5 Flowery Branch, No. 6 Chestatee and No. 8 Jefferson) who are all ranked heading into the postseason.
So, after going 5-1 in the region East Hall plays, as well as earning a regular season win against Class 5A’s fifth-ranked Johnson (12-4-1), Vikings coach Mark Wade has every reason to be optimistic about what’s to come in the postseason.
“I believe someone from (8-4A) will play for the championship,” Wade said. “It might be us. It could just as easily be Chestatee, Jefferson or Flowery Branch.”
Up first in the playoffs, East Hall hosts Hampton at 6 p.m. Friday at Vikings Stadium.
After robust crowds all season for the Vikings, Wade has no doubts that their faithful will pack the bleachers for one of hopefully several postseason games in Gainesville.
East Hall’s coach calls the waning weeks of the school calendar the ‘dog days’ of education.
However, soccer is a constant at the school that consistently puts up deep postseason runs and is eager to play again after 2020 was cut short with COVID-19.
In the regular season, the only blemish in region play for East Hall was a 3-2 loss to North Oconee on March 30.
However, the good work done the first couple months in the season was more than enough to make up for one sluggish night.
East Hall’s coach felt the direction of the season was established with a 2-0 win against West Hall in Game 3 on Feb. 5, after his team adjusted well after coming out sluggish on a chilly night for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the match.
That night, senior goal keeper Walter Bran, recorded his second of 10 shutouts this season. Bran is a nimble athlete who in consistent in guarding the net and freeing others to play lockdown defense.
Against Flowery Branch, after having it tied 1-1 through overtime, Bran had probably his most athletic showing when he blocked all three shots in penalty kicks — all put at different locations — to secure a thrilling 2-1 win.
And, Bran has a booming leg too, able to score across the pitch on a free kick for the Vikings.
“Walter is a really quick and athletic talent,” Wade said.
The other major weapon for East Hall is senior Averen Samuels, who has a team-high 12 goals.
They all seem to come at clutch times for the Vikings.
On March 12, Samuels broke a tense back-and-forth scoreless match with the only goal against Jefferson.
Also making up the core leadership for the Vikings in the midfield have been Edder Montesinos, Ranferi Lara and Pedro Arroyo.
The core group of this year’s senior class has been with Wade both seasons he’s been coach at East Hall, but they had to fill a leadership ‘vacuum’ left by the guys who were seniors in 2020 and didn’t get to finish their careers. By the looks of things, East Hall’s guys are doing just fine and will be a great contender for a deep postseason run.