All it took was a period of three minutes to catapult the Gainesville boys soccer team to an easy win over Franklin County on Friday at City Park Stadium.
Just 11 minutes into the contest, the Red Elephants began a scoring spree that saw them put four shots into the back of the net in less than two minutes en route to a 9-1 win against the Lions.
Three of those goals were scored in succession by senior midfielder Eduardo Espinoza. After Ricardo Gomez, with some slick maneuvering, knocked a shot past the diving Lions keeper to get Gainesville on the board, Espinoza sealed the game early.
His first was on a follow after a Gainesville (8-1, 5-0 8-AAA) shot was blocked. Putting pressure on goal, Espinoza knocked a shot into an empty net after the Franklin County keeper had moved out to make the first save.
It took barely over a minute for Espinoza to get back on the board, taking an assist from midfielder Douglas Mejia on a free kick and sending the ball into the net to make the score 3-0.
He earned the hat trick just 40 seconds later, spinning around a defender and sending a long shot into the top-right corner of the goal to put the Red Elephants out of reach.
“That was the best he’s played all year,” Gainesville coach Rick Howard said of Espinoza’s performance. “Coach (Elie) Viviant adjusted our shape a little. He moved the midfielder closer to the forward, and that seemed to help us out quite a bit.”
Even before the Red Elephants put goals on the board, they applied pressure early and often. Espinoza had his first shot on goal two minutes into the contest. Gainesville added seven more shots in the first 10 minutes before finally breaking through 11 minutes in.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” Howard said. “But we played well.”
The second half was more of the same for the Red Elephants. They continued to apply pressure, scoring five more times, including four in a 12 minute period.
Aidan Reising, Merly Velasquez, Roman Arriaga, Mejia and Caesar Regaldo each added a goal in the second half to turn the game into a runaway for the home team.
Franklin County’s only goal came just over four minutes into the second half, when Meiko Swinton beat the Red Elephants keeper to score on an empty goal.
Despite the win, Howard noted a number of areas on which he’d like to see his team improve.
For one, he wants his team to get healthy.
“We’re all a little beat up right now,” he said. “We’ve got to get more consistent with the players we have, and we’ve got to get healthy.”
And he wants his team to put a total game together.
“We played well at the beginning of the year,” Howard said. “But the kids need to decide and really commit to what they want this year.”
Howard noted the strength of Region 8-AAA, and said the next four games in the region before spring break (at Lumpkin County and Oconee County, and home against Chestatee and North Hall) will be a tough stretch for his team.
“We’ve got to put it together quick,” he said. “Because all those teams are well-coached and play well. If we don’t bring our A-game, we won’t win.”
Gainesville plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lumpkin County.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 10, FRANKLIN COUNTY 0: Hartley Carter scored five goals to lead the Lady Red Elephants (7-2, 5-0) on Friday at City Park Stadium. She scored less than six minutes into the contest and again just 12 minutes later. After having a handful of near misses, she earned the hat trick eight minutes into the second half.
Carter added two more goals within the next three minutes, including two just 25 seconds apart, to cap off her impressive match.
“She did a good job of being willing to come back to midfield and build the attack,” Gainesville coach Mark Wade said. “That can actually free her up to score a lot of the time.”
Freshman Elizabeth Fischer added two goals, and Laramy Head, Liza Carpenter and Anna Youmans each added one.
The Lady Red Elephants play at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lumpkin County.