GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- An early penalty by Columbus set the Gainesville boys up for success.
Just four minutes into the match, the Red Elephants' Yunis Yanes was fouled just outside of the penalty box, resulting in a red card for Columbus captain Paul Anderson.
Ricardo Gomez attempted the ensuing free kick for Gainesville. Despite a big save by Blue Devil keeper Sam Dunton, Gainesville's Aiden Reising capitalized on the rebound to give the Red Elephants their first goal.
That was all they would need.
It was the first of four goals for the No. 4-ranked Red Elephants on their way to a 4-0 shutout over No. 5 Columbus on Friday at City Park Stadium. With the win, Gainesville advances to the state semifinals, where it hosts No. 1 St. Pius X.
"It's difficult to play a man down," Red Elephants coach Rick Howard said of Columbus' misfortune. "It gave us an advantage."
Reising noted after the game how important it was for the Red Elephants (18-1-1) to take advantage of the Columbus penalty.
"I just followed up like you're supposed to," Reising said. "The goal brought up the tempo of the game and made us play harder."
Despite playing a man down, Columbus continued to fight through the Gainesville midfield and create opportunities.
The Blue Devils had a couple corner kicks in the first half and, on defense, the Blue Devils came out in the second half pressuring Gainesville in the midfield.
Dunton also came up big in goal for the Blue Devils, blocking two long shots outside of the penalty box just before halftime, but they still weren't able to withstand the Gainesville attack.
"The score is not indicative of the talent of Columbus," Howard said. "We did some things good, but the ball bounced our way a lot."
The Red Elephants' second goal came from Yanes 19 minutes into the first half. Merly Velasquez fed Yanes the ball as he got around the Blue Devil defense to score.
"Our patience was good, waiting for opportunities to develop," Howard said. "Yonis' finish was special."
Gainesville possessed the ball, patiently waiting for their next scoring opportunity, which came when Gomez received the ball in front of the net to score.
Gomez cut the ball around three different Columbus defenders and somehow, in all of the chaos, managed to get a shot off making the game 3-0.
As fatigue began to kick in the game got a little physical, resulting in both teams each receiving yellow cards.
Roman Arriaga scored Gainesville's fourth and final goal in the 51st minute of the game.
Gainesville will take a day or two to recuperate before returning to train for the semifinals.
"There's a list of things we have to get better at," Howard said "But, first we have to make sure to take care of our bodies."
Howard noted that, despite the difficulty of their next opponent, they are happy to be hosting the game in Gainesville.
"We have gotten into a rhythm at home," Howard said. "It gives us comfort and stability."