Diego Alarcon was buried in a large scrum of players when East Hall teammate Leo Toledo launched a vicious 25-yard shot toward Flowery Branch goalkeeper Chewy Alverado late Friday night at Falcon Field.
By the time Alarcon knocked home the rebound off of Alverado, he thrust his hand in the air, making sure his teammates knew who to credit for a game-winning goal.
Toledo and Alarcon scored for No. 7 ranked East Hall on either side of a Sebastian Fernandez equalizer as the Vikings earned a climactic 2-1 win over a Flowery Branch team (1-4) that pushed the visitors all the way.
“It sort of goes that way in soccer,” said Vikings head coach Chris Horton. “Someone makes a great play, and then suddenly a simple play ends up being the difference.”
Toledo’s effort, with just 5:30 left in the first half, caught the Falcons napping heading into halftime. The striker beat Flowery Branch’s Cade Minton (4 saves) on a whipped-in corner that ducked into Minton’s near post.
Fernandez drew the Falcons level with fewer than 20 minutes left in regulation when Francisco Berdecia found him in open space on the East Hall penalty spot, giving Fernandez the chance to finish just above the fingertips of Vikings keeper Antonio Perez.
But Alarcon restored the East Hall lead in the 71st minute when his toe-poked effort finally eluded Flowery Branch’s substitute goalkeeper Alverado after a frantic scrum in the Falcons six-yard box.
“We expected a lot from this team,” said Alarcon. “We didn’t know if they were at our level, but we wanted to bring our A-level.”
Falcons coach Rick Godfrey replaced his goalkeeper Minton with Alverado at halftime, saying that he wanted to keep his players as fresh as possible during a week where Flowery Branch has played four games. The Falcons will host North Hall at 4 p.m. today.
“Honestly, I’m very fortunate that I have two of the best keepers in the state,” Godfrey said. “Because of all the weather, we’ve had four games this week, so these guys needed some rest. We’ll be strong down the road.”
Minton pulled out two spectacular saves in the first half as Flowery Branch withstood a barrage of East Hall attacks, led primarily by Toledo or fellow striker Brandon Bonilla. Minton had to go full-stretch to deny Bonilla on two occasions, and was tasked with turning defense to offense for Flowery Branch’s possessions.
His second save on Bonilla gave up a corner to East Hall with just under six minutes until the break. Toledo’s cross, taken with power and precision, was too much for Minton to keep out.
“I’ve tried it, but I’ve never had it happen before,” he said. “It definitely got our momentum up, and everyone got really pumped up and we wanted to start the second half strong.”
Alvarez stepped in for Minton, and faced a barrage of chances down the wings as East Hall (3-2) pressured the substitute with long-range efforts and tempting crosses.
It took a goal away from the run of play to get Flowery Branch back in contention. Berdecia’s run into the East Hall penalty box allowed him to square a pass back to Fernandez, who finished with ease in the top-right of the goal with 19:28 left to play.
“I was proud of the team,” said Godfrey. “I’d always rather have a win, but a battle like that is why you come out here, to have kids battle aggressively. It’s good for the sport.
Ten minutes later, Toledo launched a hard, long-range effort that bounced off of Alverado’s gloves and down into a scrum of three East Hall attackers. Alarcon’s effort and fight to get his shot across the line earned East Hall its second win in three games.
East Hall will take on East Jackson on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s good to get the win, playing a quality team like this on their home turf,” he said. “It’s good for both of us to get games with high-quality opponents.”
FLOWERY BRANCH 9, EAST HALL 0: Eight Lady Falcons combined for nine goals in a pummeling of the Lady Vikings at Falcon Field Friday night.
Laura Zwald struck within the first five minutes of each half to lead Flowery Branch (3-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA), while Morgan Wadsworth, Halie Windish, Allyson Lusco, Aneesa Jones, Monica Scott, Manuela Perez and Megan Shadbolt also scored to down East Hall at home.
Scott’s goal was the pick of the bunch when the senior forward collected herself inside the Vikings box, turned and played a delightful chip over the head of East Hall goalkeeper Emily Roberts (8 saves) in the 63rd minute.
“It’s good to see these girls get some scoring confidence,” said Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali. “We brought a lot of kids from (junior varsity) so they could get experience and get used to things.”
The Vikings (1-4) will travel to East Jackson on Monday for a 5 p.m. kickoff.
The Lady Falcons will host North Hall today at 2 p.m.
On Friday, Flowery Branch defeated Cedar Shoals 7-0 in the team’s first region game of the season. Zwald had a hat trick in the blowout win, while Wadsworth, Lusco, Madeline McCarthy and Rachel Cohn also scored. Perez and Windish had an assist each against the Lady Jaguars.