The Flowery Branch boys soccer team was pushing hard. Down a goal in the second half, the Falcons were creating scoring chances and fending off Gainesville’s opportunities.
Then, the Red Elephants’ Diego Porras took a pass from Cesar Salcido and scored from the top left corner of the box in the 53rd minute. Just like that, ninth-ranked Gainesville had all the momentum back en route to a 3-0 rivalry victory Friday night at Falcon Field.
“They’re a good team,” Porras said. “This is very important to me because most of these (guys) are my friends, and that’s why it made it a competitive game.”
Christian Ochoa showed off his speed by tracking down a pass from Erik Bonilla well behind the Falcons’ defense, dribbling left and putting home another insurance goal with 16:54 remaining.
“We needed to settle down, and we needed to play a little bit quicker,” Gainesville coach Rick Howard said. “One thing that they do very well is they hustle. They put a lot of heart into their game. And really, the way they were defending us was really giving us some problems.”
The Red Elephants moved to 9-3 overall and 7-0 in Region 8-AAAAA play ahead of Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. region contest at Loganville.
Salcido scored the lone goal of the opening half off an assist from Juan Robles in the sixth minute.
Flowery Branch defender Angel Morales’ header almost tied it with about 22 minutes left in the first half, but his effort was stopped by a Gainesville defender before Red Elephants goalkeeper Sergio Mondragon collected the ball.
“We moved the ball well. We had chances,” Flowery Branch coach Rick Godfrey said. “They had a few chances, and they capitalized on them, great shots.”
Godfrey said his team is getting players back from injury and should be able to make a run at some wins late in the season.
Another strong scoring chance for the Falcons went for naught when Elias Araya’s hard shot went just high and hit the football goalposts in the 29th minute.
Flowery Branch kept getting runs and had keepers Cade Minton and Jesus Alverado stymie Gainesville chances to stay within a goal before Porras broke through.
“I give them credit because they never relaxed,” Howard said. “They never put their heads down, and they made us earn it tonight.”
Mondragon and Chandler Staton each played a half in goal for Gainesville.
Even though his team is playing well, Howard remains focused on improvement.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Howard said. “This team is an unfinished product right now.”
Flowery Branch (2-9-1, 2-2) plays at Heritage at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Conyers.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 6, FLOWERY BRANCH 0: The Lady Red Elephants had a slew of missed chances early, but Jazmin Penado turned that trend around in a major way.
Penado’s free kick in the 18th minute was the first goal in her hat trick as Gainesville built a 3-0 edge by halftime. The Red Elephants added another three goals in the second half to improve to 10-1 overall and 6-0 in Region 8-AAAAA play.
Gainesville plays at Loganville in a matchup for region supremacy at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I knew that we would come down to that,” Gainesville coach Mark Wade said. “But if we want to win the region, we’ve got to win at Loganville. They are definitely the strongest team in the region coming into the season. Hopefully we can catch up, catch them. If we can play like we did in the second half, we’ve got a shot.”
Caroline Nabb’s unassisted goal in the 24th minute pushed it to 2-0, and Penado added a penalty kick after a foul in the box with a minute to go in the first half.
“We were playing in the beginning long balls, and our forwards and our wings couldn’t get to them,” Penado said. “So we just started playing in the midfield, connecting more, more passes. And that helped us a lot.”
Elizabeth Fischer extended the margin to 4-0 when she put home a cross from Alyssa Turner in the 50th minute.
“Anything that we were playing in the air (was) going to travel way further than it normally does (in the first half),” Wade said. “And we were kind of stuck. We played a lot of balls to their keeper early, and we talked about that at halftime. The second half we were against the wind. It actually helped us a little bit.”
The Lady Falcons’ best chance came on a long free kick by Madeline McCarthy, which was corralled by Gainesville goalkeeper Alondra Wedding in the 56th minute. It was one of Wedding’s two saves in the shutout.
Penado lifted a shot over the Flowery Branch keeper’s head for her third goal in the 58th minute.
Nabb found the net for her second goal when the Falcons keeper couldn’t handle her corner kick in the 70th minute.
Gainesville finished with 17 shots on goal.
Flowery Branch (4-6-2, 1-2) plays at Heritage on Tuesday in Conyers.
“We have a lot of youth, and we’ve struggled with mentality and focus,” Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali said. “In those regards, I think today was a victory for us in those areas. They came out and they played much more composed and focused than they had.”
Scali is hoping her group can compete for a postseason spot.
“I think if we can come back with the mentality that we had tonight against some of the teams down the stretch, we give ourselves the best chance we can to make the playoffs still,” Scali said.