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Gainesville blanks LaGrange in playoff opener
Mejia leads Big Red with a goal and assist
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The first half of Gainesville's first round playoff game against LaGrange on Friday certainly put coach Rick Howard's mind at ease.

The Red Elephants immediately went on the attack and controlled the ball, scoring in the seventh minute of action and never looking back in a 2-0 win at City Park.

"We had a 10-day layoff between games and you can't replicate the speed of play with 10 days off, so I was pleased with how we played," Howard said.

With the win, No. 7 Gainesville (15-3) advances to face undefeated and No. 1 St. Pius X (16-0-1) next week in the second round. LaGrange's season finishes at 8-7-1.

"Gainesville can knock the ball and has some great players," Grangers coach Keita Placide said. "The problem was that we got behind early and when you go two down, it's always hard to come back."

The only problem for the Red Elephants was the number of missed scoring opportunities.

Merly Velasquez was just wide of the goal on a pair of scoring attempts in the early minutes of the first half, and Roman Arriaga was just wide on a cross from Velasquez with 10 minutes left in the first half.

"We definitely feel like we missed a lot of chances tonight," said Gainesville's Douglas Mejia, who finished with a goal and assist.

However, Gainesville compensated for the missed shots first with a goal on a cross by Gabriel Osorio, assisted by Mejia at the seven minute mark in the game.

The Red Elephants' other goal was unassisted by Mejia with 6:40 left to play before the half.

Also, the Red Elephants did a solid job identifying LaGrange's strategy of trying to pack the defense in the back and attempt to keep the game scoreless.

To counter, the Red Elephants kept the ball moving fluidly across the field with passes and stayed in the LaGrange side of the field the bulk of the first half.

"That first goal gave us a nice buildup, and I feel like from that point through the remainder of the first half was the best we played all night," Howard said.

The nicest play of the night for Gainesville came when Mejia fielded the ball and cradled it on a chip from his teammate. After he received the ball, Mejia cut back in front of the defender and scored on a direct kick from about 30 yards away.

Mejia is looking forward to the opportunity to play the top-ranked team in all of Class AAA in the second round.
"It's going to be a good challenge, but I think we'll be ready," Mejia said.

Trailing 2-0, Placide decided to take a calculated risk in the second half and crowd the midfield with three of his defenders.

With that tactic in play, the Grangers kept control of the ball longer in the second half, but couldn't convert on any goal attempts, even with two free kicks.

"I feel like our team stayed composed, Gainesville just did a great job," Placide said.

Going into the second round, Gainesville is still without Alejandro Angeles, who is still week-to-week from a turf toe sustained in the region title game against Johnson.

The first clear shot on goal in the second half came at the 15 minute mark when Guillermo Santillan missed on a direct kick.

The Red Elephants also came up empty on a cross from Yunis Yanes to Osorio with 6:20 left in the game, then on a kick from Yanes two minutes later.

"We've played some big games this season," Howard said.

"But we still haven't played our best soccer."


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