BUFORD — West Hall’s Omar Castillo didn’t need anyone to remind him how important a Spartans win over Buford would be in the Region 7-AAA race.
Whenever he had the ball, he acted accordingly — scoring three goals and adding an assist to lead his team to a 5-2 win over the Wolves in a crucial region game between a pair of state-ranked teams Friday in Buford.
The Spartans’ sophomore tallied two goals in the game’s first seven minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the contest that kept third-ranked West Hall unbeaten on the season and the team to beat in the region.
“You just have to take some quick shots and not think about it,” Castillo said. “Whenever you have the chance, just shoot it.”
Castillo scored in the game’s second minute and again in the seventh, sparking a dominant first half that saw the Spartans (9-0, 3-0 Region 7-AAA) take a three-goal lead at halftime and hand fifth-ranked Buford (5-2, 0-1) its second straight loss and first in region play.
The win comes at a perfect time for West Hall, as it offers a bit of momentum for a rough upcoming schedule that includes road matches with East Hall and Dawson County, both of which are also unbeaten against region foes.
Should the Spartans win both those games, there isn’t much standing in the way between them and their first region title since 2009.
“This was so crucial,” Spartans coach Andrew McCain said. “We knew if we could put this one away we would have the momentum we need to go into those two games, which will be very difficult.”
West Hall will hope for another performance from Castillo like the one he enjoyed Friday night.
Following his early two goals, he added another one in the 24th minute, arcing a shot from the top of the box to a region near the top of the net that was too high for Buford goalkeeper Zack Vickery to reach.
“He’s definitely one of those magicians,” McCain said. “At midfield he’s extremely dangerous because he can distribute the ball. He’s not selfish — he lays the ball off in a way that’s pretty impressive.”
Pedro Perez put West Hall up 4-0 when he buried a corner kick with 6:53 left in the first half, making up for a close call 18 minutes earlier when he bounced a shot off the crossbar from long range.
The Spartans’ lone second-half goal came only three minutes in, when Castillo lured a pair of Buford defenders into the left corner, leaving Ramsis Martinez wide open in front of the net for the open pass and ensuing goal.
“The way we went into this game was to just play our traditional our style of play — come at them with the intensity we knew they were going to bring to us, and distribute the ball well,” McCain said. “But then it sort of evolved into this over-the-top long ball opportunity game. When the game evolves that way, you go with it.”
Buford scored once in the first half when Constantino Torres headed a throw-in from Conner Regan past West Hall goalkeeper Frankie Vasquez. The larger Wolves began providing offensive pressure in the second half, but it didn’t result in another goal until the final five minutes of the game with a slow-rolling shot by Jose Aguirre.
Both teams are back in action at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Buford hosts White County and West Hall visits East Hall.
BUFORD GIRLS 10, WEST HALL 0: Elexa Bahr scored six goals as the Lady Wolves won their region opener via mercy rule Friday.
Bahr scored four consecutive goals in the first half, which ended with Buford up 5-0. She added another just 42 seconds into the second and capped off her big offensive night with a penalty kick in the 57th minute.
Caitlyn Dawkins, Brie Smith, Abria Shutts and Mia Edmond also scored for the Lady Wolves (8-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA), which has mercy ruled four opponents this year. The game ended in the 60th minute following Edmond’s goal.
Buford hosts White County at 5:30 p.m. Friday. West Hall (4-4, 1-2) visits East Hall at 5:30 p.m. Friday.