The goals are flowing, the defense is stingy, and confidence is sky-high for Gainesville soccer, according to junior Diego Porras.
If the Red Elephants (7-3, 5-0 Region 8-AAAAA) can put together more complete performances like their 10-0 rout of Salem on Friday night, they’ll be hard to beat.
“Right now, I think we’re unstoppable,” said Porras, who scored twice in the lopsided region win. “We’ve been shutting out every team, and we have a confidence to keep it together. We play with a lot of heart.”
Porras and senior midfielder Christian Ochoa both scored goals in each half, while Erik Bonilla, Eber Romero, Jose Sandavol, Cesar Salcido, Estaban Batusta and Oner Turcious all struck to earn a mercy rule win at City Park Stadium in Gainesville.
Earlier in the night, girls coach Mark Wade earned his 100th career victory when his Lady Red Elephants handled the visiting Lady Seminoles 10-0 to remain the leaders in the Region 8-AAAAA race.
Rick Howard’s boys team was a picture of teamwork and precision in the first half. The Red Elephants forced 18 first-half shots, including nine on frame, while holding Salem to just one shot.
Senior forward Bonilla and Christian Ochoa weaved through the Seminoles defense at will, and combined to put Gainesville up 2-0 within the first five minutes. Junior defender Eber Romero surprised his own team by joining his teammates in attack, and launching a booming 25-yard strike that flew past Salem goalkeeper Jimmie Norton (seven saves) and into the net.
Romero said Gainesville will need to spread the field if it wishes to improve on last year’s run to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“We try to defend as well as we can, to try to then look for the space and move quickly,” he said. “We need to move the ball quicker. Other than that, I think we have a good chance of winning region.”
Gainesville is currently riding a four-game winning streak into a week-long road stretch. If the Red Elephants can come out with wins over Clarke Central (Tuesday), Flowery Branch (Friday) and Loganville (Apr. 2), they can clinch the region title.
Defense will be crucial for Gainesville. In five of their seven wins this season, the Red Elephants have shut out their opponents.
Salem (4-3-1, 2-3-1) managed just four shots all night.
“We’ve come a long way this season,” said Howard. “Every game, we’ve gotten better. We’ve taken the things we’ve been training and been able to see that in games. I definitely like the shutout better (than the 10 goals).
Sophomore winger Juan Robles set up Sandavol with the goal of the game in the 19th minute. Robles whipped in a low cross that beat two Salem defenders before Sandavol finished with a right-footed effort from eight yards out while diving to put Gainesville up by four.
Junior midfielder Omar Perez said he was happy with how Gainesville was able to move possession throughout the field before unleashing shots.
“We want to move the ball up and down, to work as a team, and have it go all over,” he said. “If we keep practicing more on that, and get through to state, we can probably win it. Right now, we’re pretty unstoppable.”
Salcido assisted on both of Porras’ goals as Howard began to sub in his bench. Salcido ended the game with those two assists, while Ochoa and Bonilla also picked up an assist each. Porras’ second goal gave Gainesville a 7-0 lead before strikes by Ochoa and Turcious, as well as Batusta’s penalty, ended the game by mercy rule.
Porras said his team values shutouts and goal-scoring opportunities equally, and doesn’t try to focus too much on either end of the field.
“It’s a mixture of both,” he said. “We work on everything throughout the field. That’s important.”
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 10, SALEM 0: Head coach Mark Wade earned his 100th career victory with a mercy-rule thumping over the visiting Seminoles that keeps the Lady Red Elephants in the hunt for a Region 8-AAAAA title.
Sophomore Alyssa Turner scored a hat-trick in the opening 10:09, Jazmin Penado and Caroline Nabb secured two goals each, and Gainesville (8-1, 4-0) put eight goals past Salem before referees whistled for halftime after just 20 minutes.
Nabb notched Gainesville’s final two goals with less than four minutes gone in the second half to earn the Lady Red Elephants’ fifth straight win.
With the victory, Gainesville is undefeated in region play heading into a three-game road stretch against Clarke Central (March 24), Flowery Branch (March 27) and Loganville (Apr. 2).
Wade said he won’t be writing off any opponents.
“I’m worried about every game,” he said. “Every one of these three games are critical if we want to (get to) where we (want to be) at the end of the season.”
Turner has 20 goals on the season, and has already surpassed last year’s season total. Senior Elizabeth Fischer has 14 goals after scoring the game’s opener.
Salem will return home to take on Cedar Shoals this coming Tuesday.