Samuel Coto’s second-effort shot wiped away 40 minutes of frustration for West Hall’s boys.
Taking a pass from teammate Jordan Moreno, Coto planted a kick off the hands of Cartersville goalkeeper Reid Selton, then collected the rebound with the keeper laying on the ground and fired it into the back of the net for the game’s first score in the 57th minute, keying the Spartans’ 4-0 win in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament in Oakwood.
“Getting that first goal was a huge relief for our entire team,” said Coto, who also scored the final goal in the 70th minute.
With the win, No. 4 West Hall (11-5-2) advances to face top-ranked Woodward Academy on Tuesday in College Park. Game time has yet to be determined.
After having 10 shots miss — four on goal — in the opening half, West Hall coach Tim Gale decided to gamble and load all 10 of his players onto the same side to increase pressure and hopefully get on the scoreboard.
Even though the first five missed early in the second 40, the Spartans coach could see that it was going to pay off. Twelve minutes into the second half, West Hall’s Ramsis Martinez attempted a bicycle kick in front of the Cartersville goal, and only missed high of the cross bar by a couple of inches.
Shortly after that, the shots started connecting with the back of the Cartersville net, extending the Spartans’ playoff run for another week.
Gale credits playing in a difficult Region 7-AAA during the season, along with gritty matches against county rivals Johnson and Gainesville, for preparing the Spartans to win in the postseason.
“We’re very excited to get to this stage of the playoffs; this is where we made it last year,” Gale said. “We played great competition all year, a very strong region and were able to play them tough.”
After missing the goal by only a matter of inches a number of times in the opening half, West Hall started to remedy its biggest problem of scoring goals this season, according to Gale, with the shift of personnel.
“We struggled scoring all season and it became our Achilles Heel,” Gale said. “I think maybe we’re starting to find our way.”
Following Coto’s first goal, West Hall scored a pair of goals only a minute apart midway through the second half.
Jordan Moreno crossed the goalkeeper for the Spartans’ second goal on a penalty kick in the 60th minute.
Less than a minute later, Martinez earned redemption for the miss on his acrobatic attempt with a more straight-on shot to put West Hall up 3-0, effectively putting the game away.
Coto added the final shot into the net for West Hall 10 minutes later.
In the first half, West Hall kept control but narrowly missed on all of its attempts, including corner kicks and a number of shots saved by Cartersville’s athletic goalkeeper.
Midway through the first half, West Hall’s Simon Cobian took a pass and seemed to place it perfectly to the side of the net, but was denied by a diving Selton, who deflected the shot just wide enough to miss the net.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Omar Castillo seemed in position for the goal, but his header attempt sailed just wide of the goal.
Selton had one final save for Cartersville (13-6) in the box during the final minute of the first half to send the match into halftime scoreless.
With the loss, the Purple Hurricanes’ season is complete.