Gainesville coach Rick Howard saw flashes of how his team will need to play to win a state championship.
Now, the trick will be to make sure his Red Elephants squad plays that way for a full 80 minutes.
Six different players combined for seven goals in Gainesville's lopsided rout of Villa Rica Tuesday night at City Park Stadium. The Red Elephants will play the winner of Wednesday's McIntosh/Hardaway matchup in next week's second-round matchup on May 3. The McIntosh/Hardaway game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"We've got to take what we did tonight and add 50 percent more now," said Howard. “This will be the big test. We’ll have to let the chips fall where they may.”
Gainesville’s playoff journey began with a visit from the Wildcats, who entered the postseason as a No. 3 seed out of Region 5-AAAAA. Villa Rica (11-6-1) was quickly outpaced by its hosts, and gave up five shots in the opening 20 minutes of the first half.
Armando Hernandez rifled home from 10 yards to break the deadlock in the 12th minute, thanks to a cutting assist by Diego Porras. Jose Ortiz doubled the advantage when Porras completed a sweet 360-degree move to evade a defender and lay the pass off for his teammate.
Dunio Turcios notched his goal of the night on a header just seconds from halftime, thanks to Villanel Albarran’s cross.
“They all want to score,” said Howard. “Everybody loves to score. Our (defenders) are attackers who play in the back. We want to play free-flowing, 2-touch, go-go-go. They want to play attractive soccer.”
The Red Elephants pushed the tempo after the break with goals from Edwin Garcia (44th minute) and Christian Rodriguez (50th minute) before Porras notched two goals (55th minute, 59th minute) in the space of four minutes.
His second, a left-footed thunderbolt from the left edge of the penalty box, was the highlight of the game.
Villa Rica’s Robbie Sheets reached the Gainesville byline with a minute left to play in the second half, but his cross failed to connect with any teammates in the box.
Gainesville out-shot the Wildcats 11-6, while Red Elephants goalkeeper Sergio Mondragon recorded four saves.
“I saw it, in the first 10 minutes (of the first half) and the first 20 minutes (of the second half),” said Howard. “There were times that we held onto the ball, were a little slow, but we have to play high tempo for 80 or 90 minutes to keep going. ... We haven’t done anything yet. We’re 1-0, and to get to where we want to be, we’ve got to be 5-0.”
UP NEXT: Top-ranked McIntosh (17-1, 12-0 No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAAAA) will play Hardaway (8-5, 3-3 No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAAA) 7:30 p.m. Wednesday for the right to play Gainesville in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. Gainesville fell in the second round of last year’s Class AAAAA playoffs to eventual semifinalists Greenbrier.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS FACE PAULDING COUNTY ON WEDNESDAY: The fourth-ranked Gainesville girls soccer team (15-2, 10-0 Region 8-AAAAA) will host Paulding County (15-2, 7-2 Region 5-AAAAA) in a first-round playoff matchup at City Park Stadium.
Gainesville is the No. 1 seed from Region 8, while Paulding County is the No. 4 seed from Region 5. The Lady Red Elephants are seeking to break into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.