OAKWOOD — With a berth in the Class AAA state playoffs on the line, the Gainesville boys soccer team came through.
After regulation ended in a 1-1 tie, the Red Elephants beat Johnson 7-6 in a penalty shootout Tuesday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium to guarantee they will suit up for at least another 80 minutes of play as the No. 3 seed out of Area 7-AAA.
"I’m incredibly proud," Gainesville coach Rick Howard said. "This team has gotten better every game. We haven’t always won pretty, but they have found a way to win."
And Tuesday night was no different.
The sixth-ranked Knights (12-5, 7-3 Area 7-AAA) dominated offensively in the first half outshooting Gainesville 14-4 while maintaining possession for all but seven minutes.
Johnson went into the half up 1-0 thanks to a Chris Henry throw-in that found Gabriel Carillo, who tipped the ball into the right corner of the goal just past Gainesville goalkeeper Phillip Gaines.
Gaines play in goal, he had nine saves in the first half alone, along with timely clearouts from Gainesville’s defense, was the key to keeping the Red Elephants in the game in the first half.
The second half was a stark contrast to the first.
Gainesville came out of halftime revitalized offensively, maintaining possessions while keeping the Johnson defense on its heels.
The Red Elephants evened the score in the ninth minute when Yonis Yanes settled a Venustiano Perez free kick and shot from 7-yards out into the right corner of the goal.
"I said (at halftime) that if we would relax and possess and not panic, we would be fine," Howard said. "I’ll be honest with you, the kids looked whipped but I told them, ‘You’re not beat.’
"It kind of woke them up."
With just under nine minutes remaining in regulation, Gainesville had a chance to take the lead but failed to convert when a wide-open shot from inside the box hit the left post of the goal.
"(Johnson) is such a good team and I told the guys that we had to capitalize on our chances," Howard said. "When we didn’t, I was worried."
Neither team could find the back of the net in the 10 minutes of overtime play, and so a penalty shootout commenced.
After Gainesville’s Aidan Reising and Gerardo Damian along with Johnson’s Henry converted their shots, Gaines made a save on Diego Cuevas’ shot giving Gainesville a 2-1 advantage.
Gaines had a chance to end the match as Gainesville’s fifth shooter, but his penalty kick sailed wide left. Johnson’s Ruben Castro converted on the ensuing kick tying the score at 4-4 after 10 PKs.
The second round of the penalty shootout was sudden death. Gainesville and Johnson matched each other kick for kick through the first four shooters.
The Red Elephants eighth shooter, Charlie Bryant, stepped to the line and converted and that proved to be the difference as Johnson’s next shooter missed the goal completely sending the Gainesville players into a frenzy.
"We hung in a fought tooth and nail," Howard said. "We approached practice with the mentality that if we win we were in, we could think in what if scenarios.
"The guys were really loose, there was no nervousness at the start of the game; just a great amount of desire."
Gainesville girls 2, Johnson 1
Raquel Castillo scored with 30 seconds left in the game to break a 1-1 tie and give the Lady Red Elephants the win Tuesday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.