OAKWOOD —Scoring goals is what West Hall senior Rudy Vazquez loves to do.
He also loves helping his team win, and in the first two rounds of the state soccer playoffs, Vazquez has accomplished both.
Fresh off a two-goal performance in the first round, Vazquez scored another pair Wednesday in the third-ranked Spartans 4-0 win over tenth-ranked Cedartown in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs at West Hall.
With the win, West Hall advances to the quarterfinals where it will play host to Eagles Landing on Saturday.
“I’m just going out there and giving it my all,” said Vazquez, who leads the Spartans with 24 goals scored. “It’s not just me, my whole team is playing well.”
The senior’s propensity for finding the back of the net comes as no surprise to West Hall coach Wolfgang Jager.
“Rudy (Vazquez) is working relentlessly,” Jager said. “He provides offensive pressure like no other player I’ve seen in a long time.”
While Vazquez scoring didn’t surprise his coach, the way he scored his first goal did.
In just the eighth minute, Juan Arbalaez ran to a pass behind the defense, chipped the ball off the hands of Cedartown goalie Rury Torres and on to the right foot of a diving Vazquez, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t think he could get to that ball,” Jager said.
The quick start was a welcomed sight for Jager, who said it took his team a while to find their rhythm in the opening round.
“That is the rhythm we get from playing games in shorter periods,” said Jager, whose team has won seven straight. “The team played well and they also raised their game.”
While the quick start was different from Round 1, the Spartans (16-3) and Vazquez experienced a little deja vu against Cedartown (14-4).
Just like in the opening-round win against Franklin County, Vazquez scored his second goal off a throw-in by Chandler Ligas. With a little more than a minute left to play in the first half, Ligas launched a throw from the right side of the field that went over the defense and landed right in front of Vazquez. After the ball bounced once, Vazquez fired a left-footed shot into the top-right corner of the goal that gave West Hall a 2-0 lead.
Even when he wasn’t scoring, Vazquez was helping his team put goals on the scoreboard.
With eight minutes gone in the second half, Vazquez was tripped by a Cedartown player just outside the penalty box to set up a free kick. West Hall’s free kick specialist Arbalaez took the kick and fired a bullet into the top-right corner of the goal to give West Hall a commanding 3-0 lead.
But Arbalaez’s night ended on a down note, as the senior left the game late in the second half with a knee injury.
Arbalaez said that he heard his left knee pop and Jager stated that the senior will more than likely head to the doctor today.
“It hurt me to see Juan go out like that,” said Vazquez, whose been playing alongside Arbalaez since middle school.
Even though Arbalaez’s status for Saturday is uncertain, Jager knows his team will be ready to play even without one of their leaders.
“The team will come together in case he can’t play,” Jager said. “The team does not only rely on Juan because we have 11 good players.”
That was evident Wednesday as the Spartans and senior goalie Jamie King recorded their sixth straight shutout and ninth of the year.
West Hall got its final goal of the game when Alex Munoz scored from 35-yards out with 3.4 seconds left to play.
“We played a smart game,” said Jager, who was doused with water after the conclusion of the game. “Cedartown suited us well.”
King’s play in goal, and the defense of Israel Del Toro, Esteban Romero, Tino Vazquez and Alex Munoz in front of him will have to be especially tough Saturday when the Spartans head to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.
Knowing that Saturday may be his final home game, Vazquez said his team will be ready to bring the program to the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“It’s big, we got to go out and leave it all on the field,” he said.