FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch girls soccer team has come back down to earth. Although, according to Lady Falcons coach Katie Scali, that doesn’t have to be all bad.
Heritage scored twice in the first nine minutes and held on for a 2-1 win over the Lady Falcons on Friday at Falcon Field, handing Flowery Branch its first loss in nearly two years of Region 8-AAAA play.
Lady Falcons (12-1, 5-1) coach Scali was disappointed with the loss, which broke a 12-game winning streak to start the season and a 15-game region winning streak dating back to the beginning of last season.
But the coach admitted that the experience could very well be helpful down the road.
“I’d rather have some losses and be challenged than breeze through,” said Scali, whose Lady Falcons outscored their first 12 opponents 72-2. “What I told them is 12-1 is still a great place to be.”
With the road win the Lady Patriots (10-2-1, 6-1) have the inside track to the region title with wins already over Flowery Branch and Apalachee (7-4-1, 5-1), which sit in a tie for second.
The sixth-ranked Lady Falcons travel to Winder to face the Lady Cats at 5:30 p.m. March 30 in a game Flowery Branch will most likely need to win in order to stay in the hunt for a region title. However, for that to happen, Heritage would need to lose. The Lady Patriots have already lost to Winder-Barrow, which Flowery Branch beat 4-0 earlier this season.
Apalachee beat the Lady Bulldoggs 3-1 Friday night to keep pace with Heritage and Flowery Branch. Scali said she had wanted to see Winder-Barrow win, because it would have created a three-way tie at the top of the region instead of a Heritage lead.
But, as Heritage coach Chad Suddeth said, “There’s still a lot of soccer to be played.”
“This doesn’t knock us out of the picture,” Scali said.
While it wasn’t the first time Flowery Branch had fallen behind this season — it had gone down 1-0 to Loganville before winning 4-1 — Heritage brought a different challenge after doubling the Lady Falcons goals allowed this season in less than 10 minutes.
Put in an unfamiliar position, Flowery Branch fought back, tallying 17 shots on goal to just four for the Lady Patriots.
Junior Jacy Ramey finally put the Lady Falcons on the board midway through the second half after finding a deflection off a free kick and hitting the back of the net to cut the deficit in half.
“I was really proud of the way they didn’t cave in,” Scali said. “We were all over them in the second and had plenty of chances.
“I told them that if there were five more minute we would probably have tied it up.”
As it was the Lady Falcons took six shots and four corner kicks in the final 20 minutes, but Heritage goalkeeper Mady Carter held firm.
For a program that has, for the most part, been one of the top region teams every year, defeating the team that had swept in last year and had dominated the region since was extra special.
“Absolutely it was nice to get this win,” said Suddeth. “We’ve got a strong tradition and a proud bunch. We should compete for the region championship every year.
“We’re proud to be the first region team to give them a defeat. That’s a big achievement for us.”
The Lady Patriots looked the part of a championship contender Friday, especially in the first 10 minutes.
At the 34:07 mark Heritage senior midfielder Arielle Gunderson, a University of Florida signee, deposited a rebound off Flowery Branch keeper Lauren Dunn, who had ran out to make a diving save on a Heritage shot.
Seventh-ranked Heritage doubled that total less than three minutes later — matching Flowery Branch’s goals allowed through the first 12 games of the season — when a free kick just outside the box by freshman Kaley Wells found the head of Madeline McCarthy for a 2-0 Heritage lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
The Heritage defense stymied Flowery Branch for the rest of the half and into the second, but the Lady Falcons goal with 26 minutes remaining was the beginning of a period of nearly constant pressure by the home team.
“They’ve got a good team,” Suddeth said. “We knew we’d have our hands full.”
Flowery Branch hosts Habersham Central at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Heritage hosts Loganville at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
HERITAGE BOYS 2, FLOWERY BRANCH 1: The Patriots (8-3-2, 7-0) handed Flowery Branch (8-4-1, 5-1) its first region loss of the season on the strength of two early goals.
The Patriots, who have already defeated defending region champions Habersham Central this season, took one step closer to a region title of their own. The Falcons drop into a tie for second.
Heritage scored twice in the first half, on goals from freshman Andre Deas and junior Joseph Switay, to take a brief 2-0 lead.
Flowery Branch cut the lead in half less than four minutes later on a free kick from junior Kevin Restrepo that sliced into the top left corner from just outside the box.