Derian Alarcon’s two goals bookended the Gainesville High boys soccer team’s dominant 7-0 win against Lanier on Thursday night.
Now the senior and his teammates are on the cusp of the Region 8-AAAAAA championship.
The Red Elephants (13-2, 8-1 region) strengthened their spot at the top of the standings with an offensive flurry on Senior Night at City Park Stadium. Gainesville’s final region contest is a de facto championship game against second-place Apalachee (7-2 in region) at 4 p.m. next Monday in Winder.
“Winning a region championship is always special,” Alarcon said. “I won it once as a sophomore and lost my other two years, so I want to get a win in the last game.”
But even with a loss at Apalachee, the Red Elephants could still hold onto the top spot despite both teams having an identical region record.
The Wildcats’ only avenue into first place is winning by four or more goals, which would outdo Gainesville’s margin of victory in its 4-1 win in the teams’ March 3 meeting. That’ll be a tall task for Apalachee, considering the Red Elephants haven’t surrendered more than two goals in a single game this season.
Or Gainesville could win outright again, rendering the margin-of-victory tiebreaker unnecessary.
“We definitely want to go out and take care of business because anything can happen in soccer,” Red Elephants coach Elie Viviant said. “I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve lost to teams that I was supposed to beat. Hopefully, we’ll be ready Monday.”
Gainesville heads into the region-deciding showdown riding a six-game winning streak punctuated by its largest margin of victory this season.
Alarcon was one of six Red Elephants to score against the Longhorns (1-13, 0-9 region). Some nifty footwork helped him find the net in the eighth minute, followed by Cristian Rodriguez’s left-footed strike that ricocheted off the crossbar into the goal three minutes later.
Dennis Turcios put Gainesville ahead 3-0 at halftime by mere inches, sending in a shot that an Apalachee defender appeared to poke away at the last second but actually crossed the goal line.
“I was on the bench at the time, and none of us realized he scored,” Alarcon said with a laugh. “We didn’t know until the linesman signaled for a goal a few seconds later.”
Seniors Sergio Diaz and William Valencia scored on penalty kicks two minutes apart, and Alexis Salazar added another goal in the 66th minute. Alarcon rounded out the scoring with a goal seven minutes later after he corralled a deflected cross.
“At this point in the season, it comes down to the scouting reports,” Viviant said. “We knew we wanted to pressure their outside backs because it made it hard for them to play the ball. We pushed four or five players forward, and it worked.”
The coach attributed the Red Elephants’ success down the stretch to players finally getting healthy, though he noted the injury bug helped them develop enough depth to roll out 20 players Thursday night.
Alarcon is among those players returning to the pitch. He’s still sporting a brace around his right arm due to an ulnar collateral ligament injury he suffered against Dacula on March 10.
That 2-1 loss was the last time Gainesville tasted defeat, the launchpad for the six-game winning streak that has put it in the driver’s seat for the region title. But Apalachee has ripped off seven straight wins of its own, which is why the Red Elephants have already forgotten their previous win against the Wildcats.
“We’re looking at it as a new game even though we’ve played them before,” Alarcon said of the high-stakes region finale. “We have the mentality that we want to win every game from here on out.”
LANIER GIRLS 4, GAINESVILLE 2: Despite scoring a pair of first-half goals Thursday night, the Lady Red Elephants fell to Lanier in their final Region 8-AAAAAA game of the season.
Alondra Fuerte found the net in the opening period for Gainesville (4-11-1, 3-7 region), followed by Cindy Bonilla’s goal that tied the score at 2-2. But the Lady Longhorns (10-5, 7-2 region) triumphed thanks to a hat trick by Anaelle Moleka, who assisted teammate Nina Johnson’s goal.
The Lady Red Elephants wrap up the regular season against Berkmar High at 5:30 p.m. next Friday at City Park Stadium.