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Spartans make history, reach soccer semis
West Hall goalie Jamie King kicks the ball back into play during the first half of Saturday's 2-0 win over Eagles Landing. - photo by Tom Reed

OAKWOOD — West Hall boys soccer coach Wolfgang Jager broke out in an immediate smile when asked about the 2-0 win against Eagles Landing in the Class AAA state quarterfinals Saturday in Oakwood. His response with his thick German accent said it all.

“Everything else is gravy now,” Jager said.

His response is in reference to securing the Spartans’ first trip to the semifinals in boy’s soccer, with a previous trip to the state quarterfinals under his belt at the school. With the win, third-ranked West Hall awaits the Cairo/Oconee County winner for the semifinals on Wednesday.

The Spartans (17-4) earned the win with two second-half goals after spending more than an hour in weather delays early in the first half.

West Hall also extended its shutout streak defensively in the playoffs, despite playing without standout senior midfielder Juan Arbelaez, who injured his left knee in the second-round game against Cedartown.

The Spartans relied on Gerson Mejia, Alec Wells and Chandler Ligas to man the midfield in Arbelaez’s absence.

“It feels great to make it to the state semifinals and make school history,” West Hall senior Rudy Vazquez said. “But we still have some goals left to accomplish.”

West Hall struck first with a penalty kick from senior Israel Del Toro after he was fouled on a push in the back only two minutes into the second half. Then with 14 minutes remaining, Vazquez scored his fifth goal of the playoffs from about 20-yards out on an assist from Wells.

The Golden Eagles’ (13-5-1) final chances to score came with a pair of free kicks in the final 10 minutes, which were both turned away by the West Hall defense.

Eagles Landing’s offensive game plan for the match was to feed the ball to striker Michael Lee. West Hall’s defense was prepared by using two defenders including a sweeper to limit his breakaway opportunities.

“That’s all they tried to do on offense was trying to get it to the striker,” Vazquez said. “It was really easy to pick up on.”

Once the game was resumed after three overlapping weather delays, Eagles Landing had its only strong scoring opportunity when a header from Lee was turned away by West Hall’s goalie, Jamie King.

Eagles Landing’s defense returned the favor at the 28 minute mark in the first half when its goalie deflected a shot from Vazquez on a free kick. West Hall’s leading scorer also missed out on an open shot that sailed wide with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

West Hall senior Alex Munoz will have to sit the state semifinal game after drawing a red card with four minutes remaining in the game. Spartans sophomore Esteban Romero went down with injury and was helped off the playing field in the final minutes but his playing status for next week is still not determined.

Eagles Landing’s season is now complete.

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