CARROLLTON — The Carrollton High School boys soccer team made its recent struggles in the second round look like ancient history in Wednesday’s 3-0 second-round Class AAA playoff win against visiting Gainesville.
“It’s a great feeling for us. These kids deserve to be where they are today,” Trojans coach Scott New said. “There’s a lot of good teams before them that have not made it this far.”
Gainesville coach Rick Howard said the Trojans’ success against his team came down to a unified approach, but was proud of his guys’ effort because from where he stood, they just ran into a better team.
“They play as a team,” Howard said. “It’s like clockwork.
“They’re a good team. I mean, they’re well-coached. They’ve got a lot of talent. You know, we gave it our best shot. Yeah, there’s things we could have done differently. But they’re a good team, and they deserved to win. And I hope they win the state championship.”
Junior forward Colton Huebner recorded a hat trick, scoring two goals in the first half and adding another in the final 15 minutes of the contest to provide every goal for the Trojans (16-2-2), who advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time. Next up is Saturday’s third-round matchup with Richmond Hill.
“He’s a goal-scorer, and, you know, that’s what you ask for in your forwards,” New said of Huebner. “And he had a great night (Wednesday). He had a nose for the ball. He was around there, and he finished.”
Though Carrollton had endured the previous disappointments of four straight losses in the second round, Huebner and his teammates came out determined to end that trend.
“We should have been nervous coming in, but I don’t think anybody was nervous,” Huebner said. “I think we were confident that we would (go) on to the next round, and I think we’re confident that we’re going to keep our run going.”
With leading scorer Michael Derbecker limited to about 10 minutes of action on Wednesday, Huebner said it was imperative for him to pick up the slack.
“We didn’t have our leading scorer Mike, so I had to step up,” Huebner said. “And I think I did.”
Carrollton had plenty of scoring chances throughout, but it was Huebner that put the Trojans on the board with a score off a Jordan McDonald pass with 29:02 left in the first half.
From there, it remained 1-0 for most of the rest of the opening half. Huebner took advantage of a penalty kick, though, with 1:46 left in the first half to push it to 2-0 after Taylor Stone was fouled in the box, giving the Trojans a well-needed cushion heading into the break.
Huebner struck again with 14:44 remaining, using plenty of open field to get in good position and firing a shot from outside the 20 that gave Carrollton a 3-0 edge and completed his hat trick, with Bill Rucker recording the assist on the play.
“That one last goal was a beautiful shot to finish off his night with a hat trick,” New said. “So we’re hoping that he continues to put goals in the back of the net.”
Huebner attributed the Trojans’ solid offensive night to their ability to pounce on Gainesville, which he thought was intimidated by Carrollton’s ranking and venue.
“We put constant pressure on them, and that made them just give the ball up,” Huebner said. “It’s just how we do things, especially when teams come in here scared.”
Junior defender Austin Dodson returned to the lineup after missing a few games with an ankle injury and saw his first significant minutes since the middle of March, but with Derbecker limited and Edgar Martinez out again, the Trojans showed their depth with Homero Perez, Thomas Dugan and Caleb Griffin seeing more than their usual minutes.
“We’d still like to have a few more there,” New said. “But the guys out there that are playing are doing a great job.”
And with those guys battle-tested from games earlier in the season, New said he had full trust in them when they were on the field.
“We have good depth,” New said. “It’s not like we just have 11 out there and don’t trust anybody else.”
With the second-round curse behind them, the Trojans now stand three wins from the one thing New said would mean so much more.
“It’s a big step for us, but we know our goals are still a little higher than that,” New said. “We’re happy that we’re here, but still our ultimate goal is to go all the way and play on May 9.”