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Class 6A soccer playoffs: Gainesville boys fall to Chattahoochee in championship game
Red Elephants suffer only regulation loss this season in 2-0 defeat
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Gainesville's Erick Serrato (4) and Dalton's Ezequiel Hernandez (22) and Omar Hernandez (7) chase after a ball last Tuesday during the boys Class 6A state semifinals at Bobby Gruhn Field at City Park. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The Gainesville boys soccer team failed to go 2-for-2 against a nationally ranked opponent this postseason. The Red Elephants just so happened to fall short in the biggest game of the year.

Four days after dismantling top-seeded Dalton, Gainesville’s trademark defense couldn’t stall the attacking force and speed of No. 2 Chattahoochee for long as it suffered a 2-0 loss during Saturday’s Class 6A state championship game in Macon.

Chattahoochee — ranked fourth nationally, according to Gainesville coach Elie Viviant — pounced on its opportunities to capture its first state title since 2011 and hand the Red Elephants their only loss in regulation all season. The Cougars (19-2-1) took the lead off a set-piece goal in the first half, while Ryan Kapper delivered the knockout punch with 17:13 left.

“It was hard to run with them,” said Viviant. “We didn’t establish ourselves, and in the first 15 minutes, we didn’t do too well. We didn’t start like we wanted — playing the ball more on the ground. I felt we had to sell them out pretty good. We pushed, we pushed, and they countered and scored. It happens.”

The Cougars’ quick pursuit — which came in the form of midfielder Alex Field and strikers Jackson Siegle and Ryan Kapper — from the opening whistle resulted in four corner kicks within minutes. Chattahoochee’s fourth corner of the game was guided into the right pocket of the net off a Nicholas Troyer glancing header in mid-air from 8 yards outside goal.

A determined Gainesville (19-3) attack, which started flat in the early going, began its pursuit and nearly scored the equalizer off its third corner in the 30th minute. Cristian Rodriguez’s chip from the left flag floated toward Alejandro Covarrubias at the far post, whose on-target header was swatted away by Cougars goalkeeper Jack Corriga.

And with six minutes left before intermission, Covarrubias who took a beautifully placed through ball from Pedro Santos and rifled a shot dead-on at Corriga before Santos got the rebound and fired a second shot wide. It was the closest the Red

Elephants came against Chattahoochee’s defense, which was mostly due to Corriga’s commanding presence inside the box.

A late substitution by Gainesville from the back line proved unfortunate, as Chattahoochee’s Kapper infiltrated the void to score the final goal in the 63rd minute. Kapper in a footrace scurried down the left flank and weaved through the back door to slot a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Augustin Garcia.

“We were pushing, and were not in good shape defending, I guess, and it’s one of those things that happens,” Viviant said of the unfortunate play. “You have to take some risks at some point. You have to push. We were down. We are a good team to defend, and when we defend well we are a really good team.

“But we went down to attack and it’s a little bit harder to break down teams when you are down. It was hard for us to break them down today.”

Despite the loss, Viviant is confident his team will make another run to the state championship after graduating just three starting seniors — Wilson Velasquez, four-year veteran Derian Alarcon, Brandon Reyna — this year.

“We gave it all, and they were really good,” the first-year coach said. “Dalton and (Chattahoochee), are pretty much the two best teams we’ve faced this year. But right now, I hope can say we belong with them. So hopefully we’ll be back here next year at the same place.”

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