The Gainesville boys soccer team Wednesday night surrendered its first goal in more than 200 minutes of play, an equalizer just after halftime that gave Glynn Academy momentum in a Class 6A second-round playoff game in which it had been thoroughly dominated.
The Red Elephants made sure that surge didn’t last long.
Just 28 seconds after the game-tying goal, top-seeded Gainesville’s offensive pressure forced an own goal that helped it pull away for a 3-1 win at City Park Stadium.
“For the five or so minutes after that own goal, it didn’t look like (Glynn Academy) had much,” Red Elephants coach Elie Viviant said. “From there, we were able to control the ball, and they tired out in the second half.”
Gainesville (17-2) is back in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 following two straight second-round exits. A trip to the semifinals will be on the line when Viviant’s squad hosts No. 2 seed Centennial — which upset top-seeded Houston County 7-3 in the second round — at a time to be determined Saturday.
The Red Elephants last reached the semifinals in 2012, when they finished as Class 3A runner-up.
They’re in a position to return to that stage even with one of their key players missing Wednesday night. Senior captain and center back Wilson Velasquez was sidelined with an appendix issue, forcing classmate Derian Alarcon to move from his usual forward position into that spot.
“We wanted someone athletic back there, and we felt like Derian was athletic enough to stop the other striker,” Viviant said. “He did that, but on their goal, you could tell we put someone back there who hadn’t played there at all this season.”
The second-seeded Terrors (15-4-1) tied the game at 1-all in the 42nd minute after mustering just four shots in the first half, three of which came in the final 60 seconds.
Jack Podlesny delivered a beautiful ball into the penalty box from just past midfield, giving Glynn Academy teammate
Christian Pullen enough time to sneak behind Gainesville’s back line and send in an uncontested, equalizing header.
But the Red Elephants immediately pushed the ball downfield, and Cristian Rodriguez fired a cross into the penalty box from the left flank.
A Terror defender’s attempt to clear the service with a header went awry as he sent the ball skipping just over his own goal line.
Glynn Academy players were visibly distraught at the sudden swing in momentum, which tilted even further in Gainesville’s favor in the 51st minute when Armando Hernandez’s shot from about 25 yards out bent just inside the right post.
“I felt like we controlled the game and deserved to win,” Viviant said. “But they were well organized and overloaded the midfield with five of their guys against four of ours. They were hard to get behind at times.”
Yet the Red Elephants managed to do just that in the 24th minute to take an early 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez served up a precise through ball for Alejandro Covarrubias, who found himself in an easy one-on-one situation from left of the net. After one touch, Covarrubias scored on a right-footed kick that scooted past the Terrors’ goalie.
The goal helped Gainesville push its winning streak to 10 games, during which its defense has dominated. The Red Elephants conceded only one goal in five of those games, pitched a shutout in the other five and hadn’t allowed the ball in the net since their second-to-last regular-season game April 17.
Gainesville will need a similar defensive showing if its wants to claim a spot in the semifinals against Centennial, which has outscored its two playoff opponents by a combined 11 goals.
Forcing another own goal wouldn’t hurt, either.
“There are no more easy games now,” Viviant said. “ … At this point, you can make one mistake and big goal will go in, just like it did for (Glynn Academy) tonight.”