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Header in final seconds lifts North Hall past Chestatee
Sammy Diaz scores game's lone goal off Jackson Madonna throw-in
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Jackson Madonna’s throw-in gave North Hall a chance, and Sammy Diaz’s header to the bottom right corner of the goal made it pay off in a major way.

Diaz scored with about seven seconds remaining to allow the Trojans to stun No. 10 Chestatee with a 1-0 victory Tuesday night at The Brickyard.

“Sammy went up and made a great play on it,” Madonna said.

The teams battled for more than 79 scoreless minutes in a rugged Region 8-AAAA matchup before Diaz’s decisive breakthrough that keeps North Hall (5-4-1, 3-3) squarely in playoff contention.

“We worked hard. We played well. They played well, as well,” Diaz said. “And it was a hard grind, but we did what we had to do and came out with a ‘W’ at home.”

North Hall coach Chris Henry said his team lost to Monroe Area in “similar fashion” and has battled all season.

“I’ve been in some close games as a player and a coach,” Henry said. “But to see it like this, man, especially against a crosstown rival like Chestatee, it’s unbelievable. It’s a moment that they’ll never forget.”

Henry said his team started to get momentum in the final five minutes.

“The past four or five games with Jackson and that throw-in, it’s given people fits,” Henry said. “It’s a long throw, and it’s tough to cover.”

Chestatee coach Michael Herrin’s team is no stranger to close games, having played in three penalty-kicks battles already.

“Both teams wanted it,” Herrin said. “They capitalized on us at the end. We had told the guys about the long throw-in, to watch for it. We just fell asleep right there at the end. I don’t know what happened.”

Henry said his team sent guys up on the final play.

“We just said, ‘Go, get guys down there,’” Henry said. “And it worked.”

Diaz previously had both goals in a 2-0 win against Lumpkin County on Friday.

North Hall’s region finale is April 17 at North Oconee (12-2, 6-1) after some upcoming non-region contests. Chestatee hosts Monroe Area the same night to close region play after non-region games before that.

“This makes it tough right here,” Herrin said of the playoff picture.

Juan Mejia’s penalty kick went just wide right with about 14 minutes left as the War Eagles (7-4, 4-3) couldn’t cash in on their best scoring chance. Mejia set up his own penalty opportunity with his spot-on through pass to Arnold Gamez, who was taken down in the box.

Gamez had a bevy of goal chances for Chestatee, which was regularly putting pressure on the Trojans, but North Hall goalkeeper Chris Bellows didn’t let anything by him in the shutout.

Miguel Calderon was in goal for the War Eagles, who turned away most of the Trojans’ limited chances.

North Hall plays at Lakeview while Chestatee visits West Hall on Thursday.

CHESTATEE GIRLS 2, NORTH HALL 1: The Lady War Eagles didn’t strike quickly, but their patience and precision paid off against the county rival Lady Trojans on Tuesday.

Chestatee (8-4, 5-2) continued to strengthen its playoff positioning, while North Hall (4-5-1, 2-4) missed out on an opportunity to help itself in that department.

Genesis Reyes’ through pass was perfectly placed for Merrie Barnett to run it down and lift the game’s first goal over the North Hall goalkeeper’s head in the 26th minute.

“I was confident that I could get to it because it was a really nice pass, just right where I needed it,” Barnett said.

Following Barnett’s early score, the Trojans’ Katie Estrada missed out on a few close scoring chances.

Then, Taylor Buffington received a pass from Nina Burgess, took a couple of dribbles and put home a goal on a ball that slipped through the keeper’s hands for a 2-0 edge.

“North Hall’s got some good athletes,” Chestatee coach Mark Dunn said. “We earned it.”

Estrada broke through in the game’s final 15 seconds to cut it to a one-goal margin, but Chestatee maintained control of the ball in the closing seconds to keep North Hall from getting another chance.

“(We) just came in and came out flat and allowed a goal early,” North Hall coach Gary Gaddy said. “And then we’re chasing the game the rest of the time.”

Gaddy said his team learned it can’t be afraid of pressure.

Tyler Bennett earned the win in goal for the Lady War Eagles.

Chestatee hosts West Hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and North Hall visits Lakeview on Thursday.

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