Player of the Week Imani Cross
Gainesville’s boys soccer team started and finished strong on the way to a 5-0 win against Chestatee on Friday at War Eagles Stadium. The Red Elephants punctuated the game with first and second-half scoring bursts in a physical Region 8-AAA game that featured four yellow cards.
Earlier in the evening, Gainesville’s Mary-Catherine Dempsey lofted a free kick from the corner of the penalty box over the outstretched arms of Lady War Eagles keeper Vanessa Chavez with 43.1 seconds remaining in the final overtime period to lift the Lady Red Elephants to a 1-0 victory.
But it was the strong play of the No. 4 Red Elephants (7-1, 5-0 8-AAA) that completed Gainesville’s sweep over Chestatee.
“We were pretty good on our attack,” said Red Elephant Ricardo Gomez, who scored a second-half goal and added an assist. “We’ve been working on it in practice a lot, and we’ve been getting better over the games and we proved it on the field tonight with five goals.”
Douglas Mejia opened the scoring six minutes into the game with a kick from the right side 20 yards out that cut across a goal box crowded with War Eagles defenders and past the keeper for the score, assisted by Gomez.
The score was 1-0 at halftime.
The Red Elephants poured it on in the second half, with Christian Gomez’s header in front of the goal off a cross pass from Carlos Sanchez giving Gainesville a 2-0 lead 1:30 into the half.
Moments later, Ricardo Gomez lobbed a shot from the penalty box in a shot similar to Dempsey’s in the girls game, giving Gainesville a 3-0 lead.
Then the game became testy. Already a physical contest, fights for possessions became more intense, and yellow cards were issued to players on both teams, as well as Gainesville coach Rick Howard. A card was also assessed to a Gainesville player for having an extended conversation with a line judge with 16:54 remaining.
Eleven seconds later, Yunis Yanes scored on a breakaway, fizzling the tension between the two teams the rest of the game.
“I don’t think (scoring the goal) was a response to anything, I just think that we didn’t let the ancillary stuff around us get in the way of us playing our game,” Howard said. “We kept on playing our fast game, how we play.”
With 12:53 remaining, Yanes scored from in front of the goal box on a redirected shot, prompting subs for both teams to enter the game.
Gainesville outshot Chestatee 12-4 on the game.
The War Eagles’ (5-4, 4-2) best scoring opportunity came with 7:25 remaining and the score at it’s final tally. On a free kick inside the penalty box, a Chestatee shot sailed over the Red Elephants wall and three feet over the goal box.
“We played timid,” War Eagles coach Michael Herrin said. “And (Gainesville) exploited that. They’re a good finishing team. They’re one of those teams that once they smell blood in the water, they attack. And that’s exactly what they did tonight.”
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 1, CHESTATEE 0 (OT): The game was on its way to penalty kicks, with the second of two five-minute overtime periods down to its final seconds when Dempsey delivered an incredible shot on a free kick from the corner of the penalty box.
“It was just a straight shot,” Dempsey said. “There wasn’t a lot of time left, so I couldn’t try and pass it off. I thought it was going to be my other teammate who was going to shoot it, but (when it went in) I was excited because we need all the region wins we can get.”
Because of Dempsey’s shot, Lady Red Elephants (6-2, 4-1) coach Mark Wade was able to scratch Plan B.
“I had already picked out the five to take the penalty kicks,” he admitted. “We got that chance, and Mary-Catherine is real accurate and has a strong leg. From that angle, I thought she’d be on goal and the shot was perfect.
“A foot either way and the keeper probably gets that ball.”
Chavez finished with four saves for the Lady War Eagles (4-2, 2-2).