Charlie Bryant’s bright red hair can be seen from every seat at City Park; his teammates seem to be able to see it pretty well too.
That was evident late in Friday’s game between Oconee County, when Alejandro Angeles sent a long free kick into the box and tipped off Bryant’s head and in the back of the goal to give Gainesville a 3-2 win.
“I knew he was going to get a good ball to me,” Bryant said. “I have to capitalize on every opportunity I get and take every shot like it’s my last one.”
Bryant was close to another goal several minutes earlier, only this time he was in his defensive position. With his team leading 2-1, Bryant was among a group of defenders who couldn’t clear a free kick by Oconee County’s Hunter Reed that resulted in a goal by Alexander Simpson with 24 minutes left to play.
“I have to give Oconee credit because they were great on set plays and defended us very well,” said Gainesville coach Rick Howard, whose team has now won eight of its last nine. “I keep telling the players we need to play a full 80 minutes, and I thought we did that better tonight.”
Howard was also pleased with the resiliency the defending Class AAA champion Red Elephants (10-2, 8-0 Area 8-AAA), which was two games removed from a crushing 2-1 defeat to Carrollton.
“This is the first night when the experience of last year came out,” said Howard, whose team trailed 1-0 after a Kevin Bevillard goal four minutes into the game. “We got down early, but we didn’t see any drop off, in fact, we came back harder.”
Minutes after Oconee County (7-6, 5-3) scored, Gainesville’s Douglas Mejia answered with a score off a pass from Yunis Yanes. The Red Elephants took their first lead of the game when Ricardo Gomez found Merly Velasquez with 24:50 left in the first half.
The Warriors tied the game thanks to the size of the players they put in the box on free kicks. That method nearly tied the game late in the second half, but Gainesville’s defense denied several scoring opportunities.
“We felt like we controlled the game,” Bryant said. “We proved that we’re tough enough to fight them off; it was a total team effort.”
That team is the lone remaining undefeated team in the area, and Howard said remaining that way won’t be easy.
“Every game is only going to get harder now,” he said.
Gainesville visits Monroe Area at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
OCONEE COUNTY GIRLS 1, GAINESVILLE 0: Alexis Thomas scored an unassisted goal in the second half to lead the Lady Warriors to a win Friday at City Park.
Gainesville (8-4, 6-2) visits Monroe Area at 8 p.m. Tuesday.