Carlos Carrillo admits that Riverside Military simply wasn’t ready to match Pace Academy stride for stride in last year’s Class AA quarterfinal, but that just makes him all the more optimistic that the Eagles can flip the script on Tuesday.
Riverside prepared for its upcoming rematch of last year’s playoff tilt by scrapping to a 0-0 tie at home Friday evening against Class AAAAAA Dacula High. The Eagles (8-2-2, 5-0 Region 8-AA) earned their fourth straight shutout against the visiting Falcons, a trait that Carrillo believes will only help his team fight through the upcoming postseason.
Despite entering the playoffs with a 14-2 record in 2015, the Eagles fell flat in a 4-0 defeat to Pace Academy in the quarterfinals.
“Last year (against Pace Academy), it was high intensity, we couldn’t keep up,” said Carrillo. “But now we’re better conditioned, we’re working harder. As we progress through the playoffs, it’ll be important for us to keep that up.”
Riverside Military pushed the pace for most of the evening against the visiting Falcons (5-9-1), who have two wins against teams with winning records so far this year.
Carrillo linked up with teammate Elvis Kamisendu for an impressive 1-2 in the 33rd minute that the junior midfielder blasted into the left-side netting. And junior winger Samuel Palmer did well to send a searching cross from left to right that needed just the faintest of touches in the box to score with just two minutes to play.
Palmer said he saw similarities in Dacula’s style to how Pace Academy operates.
“Everyone has stamina, fitness, touch, they can shoot when they need to,” said Palmer. “But our defense is the backbone of our team. Some of these games that were close, it might not have been if we hadn’t been so strong on defense. It gives us a reason to trust everyone.”
Riverside Military has earned its reputation of having one of the stingiest defenses in Class AA, allowing just two goals in the last eight games dating back to March 1.
Dacula threatened to break that streak when junior Rashan Martin rifled a hard shot in the 51st minute, following a long spell of Eagles’ possessions. Referees waved off an Eddu Soloranzo headed goal 11 minutes later due to an offsides.
Both teams combined for 12 shots (six each), with Dacula placing four shots on goal, compared to Riverside Military’s three. Riverside Military and Dacula had two corner kicks apiece, while Eagles goalkeeper Jonathan Guo tallied five saves.
Senior striker Jorge Quesada said Riverside Military must put forth “200 percent effort” to make sure it stays focused ahead of the end of the regular season.
“If we keep working, we can beat these teams in the playoffs,” said Quesada. “We have to work as a team. These games, like today, that’s what makes us work hard.”
UP NEXT: Riverside hosts fifth-ranked, undefeated Pace Academy (9-0) at 5 p.m. Tuesday before finishing the regular season against winless Greene County High at 5 p.m. April 19.
Dacula next travels to play South Gwinnett on 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE: Riverside Military has made the state playoffs each of the past five seasons. Dacula last made the state playoffs in 2014, when the Falcons fell to Johns Creek in the opening round.