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High school soccer: West Hall boys rally for win
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OAKWOOD—West Hall High boys soccer coach Wolfgang Jager has known for years what the rest of Region 7-AAA is finding out now.

Armed with eight seniors and many more with previous varsity playing time, years of experience and seasoning is coming together as Class AAA’s fifth-ranked Spartans (8-1, 5-0 Area 7-AAA) stayed unbeaten in region play with a 4-1 win against Flowery Branch on Tuesday in Oakwood.

“The team has established a level of quality play that they know they can do,” Jager said. “There’s a lot of determination with this team. This year is when we have to get things together.”

West Hall, winners of its last three, played its best soccer in the second half, where it scored three of its four goals and controlled the game’s momentum.

Juan Arbelaez was a difference maker in the turnaround, scoring twice and adding an assist in the second half. Ishmael Del Toro and Rudy Vazquez also scored for the Spartans.

“It wasn’t from a change in strategy, it was more because the team didn’t find its rhythm until the second half,” Jager said. “I told them we need to play faster, and wear Flowery Branch down.”

West Hall’s sluggish start allowed Flowery Branch (5-4-1, 2-2) to own the majority of the scoring chances in the first half, but didn’t get them a goal until 18 minutes into the game, when a collision in front of the West Hall net rewarded the Falcons with a penalty kick. Brannon Lloyd scored on the kick to give Flowery Branch a 1-0 lead.

The Spartans answered with two minutes left in the half, as Del Toro dribbled through the Falcons defense and buried a shot to tie the game.

“The penalty kick was unfortunate the way it came about,” Jager said. “But it was good to see our guys come back and tie it up.”

West Hall carried the momentum into the second half and came out with two close chances before Vazquez scored on a header from Arbelaez to give the Spartans their first lead of the night.

Two minutes later, traffic in the Flowery Branch box became an opportunity for Arbelaez to scoop up a loose rebound and fling it behind Flowery Branch goalkeeper Zack Clark and extend West Hall’s lead to two.

Arbelaez saved his prettiest goal for last, though. With seven minutes left to play, the senior captain slipped through several Flowery Branch defenders to tally his second goal of the night.

“Juan felt in the first half that he wasn’t playing the way he can,” Jager said. “In the second half he played with a lot of emotion and passion. He is extraordinarily gifted.”

West Hall visits Lumpkin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a contest between two ranked opponents. The Indians have not lost a game this season.

Flowery Branch visits Johnson at 7 p.m. Friday.

Flowery Branch girls 5, West Hall 0

Class AAA’s fifth-ranked Lady Falcons picked up their fourth straight win and stayed unbeaten in region play with a dominant win against West Hall.

Cassidy Elrod’s hat trick led Flowery Branch (7-3, 4-0 Area 7-AAA) goal scorers. Brenda Navarro and Lindsay Porter also recorded goals.

Lauren Dunn made nine saves to record the shutout for the Lady Falcons, who have not allowed in goal in their last two games.

“It was not our best game. West Hall put a lot of put a lot of pressure on us,” Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali said. “We played a little bit down for some reason. But we’re always happy for a win.”

Flowery Branch visits Johnson at 5 p.m. Friday. West Hall (5-4, 1-4) visits Lumpkin County at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
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