Jordan Moreno isn’t going to forget this week anytime in the near future.
The West Hall senior followed up his game-winning goal in the Spartans’ victory over top-ranked Woodward Academy on Tuesday by scoring a hat-trick to lead the fourth-ranked Spartans to a 6-0 win over Peach County in the Class AAA state quarterfinals on Friday night in Oakwood.
“I’m just happy our team could come through tonight,” Moreno said. “I was happy we could come through and that I could come through with three goals at the beginning of the game to get us up.”
Moreno, who transferred to West Hall from Las Vegas, Nev. prior to this year, and the Spartans will face Oconee County on the road in the state semifinals on Tuesday night. It will be a rematch of last year’s second-round game in Oakwood, which Oconee County won 2-0.
Both teams will enter Tuesday following big victories, after Oconee County routed Savannah Arts 5-1 on Friday night. The rematch against Oconee County is something the Spartans have been looking forward to since last year’s loss.
“I think it is something the team wants,” West Hall coach Tim Gale said.
The winner of the state semifinal matchup will advance to next Saturday night's state championship game at Emory University in Atlanta.
Within the opening minute of Friday’s quarterfinal contest, it was clear West Hall’s speed and athleticism was too much for the Trojans, who were outshot by the Spartans 35-8 on the night.
Moreno scored the first three West Hall goals, all coming in the opening 15 minutes of the game.
In the fifth minute, he got West Hall onto the scoreboard when he knocked the first of his two headers into the back of the net. The goal came off an assist from Riccardo Castruita, who got the ball off a corner kick. He nearly added another goal two minutes later, but his shot bounced off the crossbar and over the net.
“The fact that (Moreno) does have some height and some jumping ability, we look to him for some headers, off of corners and what not,” Gale said. “He found the goal tonight. Sometimes we get him the ball down there and he’s a little further out. But tonight we could get him a little tighter…and he finished very well tonight.”
Moreno’s second goal came off an assist from Samuel Coto in the 13th minute. Just two minutes later, he was back jumping into the air, connecting on another header, this time on an assist from Johnny Gomez.
“That is my specialty, getting up in the air and scoring goals,” Moreno said.
West Hall added to its lead with a goal in the 31st minute when Ronald Portillo drained a kick from 35 yards out, sailing it over the Peach County goalkeeper’s head, and again in the 38th minute when Castruita cleaned up a loose ball in front of the goal off a missed shot from his brother, Isaac Castruita.
Riccardo’s goal lifted West Hall to a 5-0 advantage heading into the half.
“We felt like we were putting good pressure and possessing it well,” Gale said. “That is something we haven’t always done this year — was score well. But we scored early and it gave us some comfort and once we got comfortable we worked the ball better and went to the goal.”
West Hall continued its aggressive play into the second half, continuing to dominate the shot advantage, but failing to find the back of the net. On multiple occasions, the Spartans seemed destined to add to their lead in the half, but multiple balls bounced off the posts, sailed high or wide.
The Spartans’ only goal of the second half didn’t even come from a West Hall player. With less than 15 minutes remaining, Peach County was attempting to clear the ball from in front of the goal when it bounced backwards and into the West Hall goal, making the score 6-0.
The strong play in the second half was an enjoyable sight for Gale, who said the experience of pressing forward might help the Spartans in the semifinals or maybe even in the state title game.
“We’ve got to see what happens to us if we are going to get down,” Gale said. “We’ve got to decide how we are going to come back. And if we are going to come back, the way we are going to have to do it is move some guys forward.”