Diego Porras was already kicking himself for missing a number of chances on goal in Friday’s region rivalry game against Flowery Branch.
That made his 73rd minute strike all the more sweet as it nestled into the back of the net, handing the Red Elephants a 3-1 home win and a comfortable lead in the Region 8-AAAAA standings.
The senior, who also opened the scoring for Gainesville in the first half, completed a daring chip over Flowery Branch goalkeeper Chewy Alvarado to help Gainesville (8-5, 7-2 in region) to its second win in the last three games.
Said Porras: “I missed a lot of opportunities and, in good conscience, I can’t live with all of those, so I had to do something.”
Porras put Gainesville ahead 1-0 in the opening 13 minutes before sophomore Dunio Turcious doubled the Red Elephants delight with a goal of his own in the 61st minute.
Senior Bilind Amedi helped Flowery Branch (7-5, 5-3) cut the lead in half when he converted a penalty kick just six minutes later after Dylan Windish was fouled in the box by a Gainesville defender.
But the comeback was for naught when Porras fought his way through the middle of the Falcons defense and sealed the victory.
“What was happening with us is, we were smelling blood and pushing forward and losing some of the defensive shape, and when they scored that, you could see ‘We’ve got a chance,’” said Gainesville coach Rick Howard. “The third goal we grabbed really took the momentum back. ... You can’t let a team hang on like that.”
Gainesville outshot its visitors, especially in the second half when Howard’s team was allowed to run amok through the middle of the field. Alvarado (six saves) pulled out several impressive saves in the final 30 minutes to keep the Falcons in contention, but could do nothing to stop Turcious, who did well to rise for a go-ahead header, courtesy of an Edwin Garcia cross on the right wing.
Howard said his team still needs fine-tuning ahead of the state playoffs. The Red Elephants fell in the second round of last year’s Class AAAAA state tournament.
Gainesville next hosts Loganville April 15, with a chance to officially clinch the region title, while Flowery Branch will next host non-region Archer High on April 12.
“I feel like all of us are happy now,” said Porras. “So we’ve just got to hope that we play our games out and finish it out.”
NO. 7 GAINESVILLE GIRLS 5, FLOWERY BRANCH 0: Junior striker Alyssa Turner scored two goals in the second half to push the Lady Red Elephants to their second straight Region 8-AAAAA championship.
The Lady Red Elephants (12-2, 9-0 8-AAAA) will finish out the region schedule with a home game against Loganville April 15, but have already earned the No. 1 seed, thanks to a head-to-head win against second-place Heritage earlier last month.
Even if Gainesville suffers its first region loss of the season to Loganville, and Heritage (9-4, 7-1) wins out in its final two region matches, Heritage and Gainesville will finish the season at 9-1 in the region. The Lady Red Elephants hold the tiebreaker.
Gainesville coach Shelly Garner said the win should bolster her team’s confidence heading into the state playoffs. The Lady Red Elephants bowed out in the first round last year, but are expecting a much longer playoff run in 2016.
“With the seniors we have, it gives us momentum,” said Garner, a Gainesville High alum who took charge of the team over the summer with the departure of longtime coach Mark Wade. “They’ve been together for an extremely long time and they’ve earned this time and moment.”
Senior Breana Fair opened the scoring with a ninth-minute goal before Gainesville notched four goals in the second half to secure the rivalry victory. Turner earned her double by converting in the 42nd and 66th minutes, while senior striker partner Taylor Buffington (46th minute) and sophomore Caroline Nabb (68th minute) also made the scoresheet.
Flowery Branch (4-9, 3-5) had its closest chance of the game with seven minutes to play in the first half when freshman Caroline Wysocki struck a hard shot that ricocheted out for a corner.
The Lady Falcons have lost three of their last four game, while Gainesville has won three straight and 12 of its last 13 dating back to Feb. 19.
Flowery Branch next hosts Archer High in a non-region game 5:30 p.m. April 12.