Averen Samuels was exhausted but elated after providing the East Hall boys one of the biggest plays in the state semifinals against Islands.
Early in the fourth-round match of the Class 4A state tournament, Samuels was in the right place for a pass from one of his teammates that he let hit off his chest and after missing on his first goal he tried again to put it in the back of the net. On his second kick, Samuels was successful and the Vikings (15-4-1) rode his goal to a 1-0 win.
With the victory, the Vikings will face Southeast Whitfield for the state title later this week.
“It feels great to come out here and win tonight,” said Samuels, who said his team lost in the same round his freshman season. “I give all the glory to God for helping us win tonight.”
Samuels’ extra-effort goal was right in line with the three he scored last week in a quarterfinal win against LaGrange at Vikings Stadium.
“Averen gives great effort all the time and just doesn’t give up on the ball,” East Hall coach Mark Wade said. “That’s four straight goals where he scored on second-touch shots and you could see it really took the steam out of the other side.”
Wade was equally exhausted after the match, but happy that no flared tempers resulted in punches thrown by players after the Islands side tackled all the East Hall players on a corner kick with less than a minute left to play in the match.
“It was a great win either way, for us,” Wade said. “We fought so hard as a team. (Islands) had us on the ropes there early in the second half, but we handled it well. It was a match similar to Jefferson when we were able to hold on and win, 1-0, earlier this season.
Speed to the ball and precision on passes were a couple of the reasons why East Hall was able to pick up the win in Gainesville. Early in the match, the Vikings were quick to the ball and players were in the right place on the pitch. Meanwhile, Walter Bran had another monster effort at goalkeeper for East Hall with six saves — two in the second half — and was also in the right place when a Sharks player was offline with a bicycle kick.
Islands was able to press the ball deep into East Hall territory early in the second half, which Wade was expecting.
However, the Vikings were resilient and didn’t let the temporary momentum shift impact the outcome of the match.
Next up, East Hall gets to face a ferocious Southeast Whitfield, which beat Jefferson 4-1 in the other semifinal contest. Also in the 2021 postseason, Southeast Whitfield has shutout wins against Benedictine, Chestatee and Arabia Mountain and outscored those three opponents by a combined 19-0.