Zamudio scores winning goalon penalty kick
By JOSEPH MYERS
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
With his team having earned a penalty kick in the 75th minute of a Class AAAAA state playoff match tied at 3, Hardaway boys soccer coach Rick Iden didn't hesitate as to his choice of who would have the opportunity to win the match for the Hawks.
"Hector!," yelled Iden, indicating midfielder Hector Zamudio would be the player to step up and take the penalty kick.
Zamudio calmly stepped up and put the penalty kick in the back of the net to lift Hardaway to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in a match Thursday night at Woodruff Farm Road Soccer Complex that saw the Hawks score two goals in the final six-plus minutes while playing a man down due to a red card early in the second half.
"Hector's the money man," said Iden, whose team trailed 2-0 at halftime and was still down 3-2 with under seven minutes to go. "As he goes, our team seems to go. Hector is the one guy on the team who has the license to move upfield and make plays when he sees he can make them. He did that in the last few minutes tonight and it made the difference. He sparks everybody."
With the win, Hardaway (13-2) moves into the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Hawks will host either Starr's Mill (12-5-2) or Warner Robins in the next round Tuesday at Kinnett Stadium. The Starr's Mill-Warner Robins match, which will be played at Starr's Mill in Fayetteville, won't be played until Saturday night.
Zamudio's penalty kick came after a Ware County player was red-carded for a deliberate handball in the penalty area. The handball came on a Hardaway corner kick, as the Golden Hawks had tied the match, 3-3, on a goal by Squash DeBrabant in the 74th minute and they were pressuring the Gators' goal for a match-winner. DeBrabant's score came on a cross from Zamudio that went off the hands of Ware County keeper Olajuwone Smith.
"Our character really showed tonight," said Zamudio. "When we got to the last few minutes, I was thinking, 'This is it.' I moved up and I knew I had to make some plays for us to win. We had to win this game."
Ware County (8-10-1) took the match to Hardaway for most of the first half and led 2-0 at halftime behind goals from Jonny Benek (fifth minute) and Toni Cruz (penalty kick, 38th minute). Hardaway did have some scoring chances, outshooting the Gators, 6-4, and having a shot go off the crossbar just before the break.
"We didn't come out ready and they jumped on us," said Iden. "We got caught looking ahead."
Hardaway got one back just after halftime when Gabe Julien netted a goal in the 43rd minute to trim the Gators' lead to 2-1. Just three minutes later, though, Julien was shown his second yellow card of the match and was sent off, leaving Hardaway to play the rest of the match a man down. Julien will miss Hardaway's next match as he serves a one-match suspension for the red card.
Julien's red card didn't stop the Golden Hawks from attacking Ware County, though. Hardaway equalized things in the 54th minute when Marcus Powell took a long goal kick from Golden Hawks keeper Ben Adamson, turned and fired a shot past Smith into the left side of the net to make it 2-2.
The Golden Hawks' happiness at tying the match despite playing with just 10 men was short lived, though, as a miscommunication between Adamson and a Hardaway defender led to a goal by Ware County's Julio Nataren, giving the Gators a 3-2 advantage in the 55th minute.
Most of the action for the next 20-plus minutes took place in Ware County's end of the pitch as Hardaway sought another tying goal and the Golden Hawks had several near misses before DeBrabant finally got Hardaway level with just over six minutes to go and helped set up Zamudio's fateful penalty kick.
"(The penalty kick) was my moment," said Zamudio. "I made that shot for this team. It was a goal for everyone and it was deserved because we were outplaying them. It was just a goal I had to make because I didn't want us to go home."
Thursday at Woodruff
Goals--Ware County: Jonny Benek, Toni Cruz, Julio Nataren. Hardaway: Gabe Julien, Marcus Powell, Squash DeBrabant, Hector Zamudio. Assists--Hardaway: Ben Adamson 1, Hector Zamudio 1. Goalies--Ware County: Olajuwone Smith 8 saves. Hardaway: Ben Adamson 2 saves. Records--Ware County: 8-10-1, Hardaway 13-2. Next: Hardaway vs. Starr's Mill/Warner Robins winner Tuesday at Kinnett Stadium.