Columbus falls to Southeast Whitfield in state playoffs

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMay 3, 2014 

DALTON, Ga. -- Southeast Whitfield's boys soccer team spent much of Saturday's Class AAAA state playoffs match as the attacking side. Yet, Columbus' defense did all it could to stay alive.

Even nine guys back on defense couldn't stop Jonathan Sanchez from securing another state playoff win for the Raiders.

Sanchez's volley in the 69th minute put Southeast ahead 3-1, a score that wouldn't change to the final buzzer at Raider Stadium. Southeast advances to the second round and will host Lumpkin County at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The No. 3 seed from Region 5, Columbus (14-3-2) exerted almost all of its resources defending Southeast's attack. For much of the match, the Raiders (12-5-2) built their offense through the outside. This resulted in numerous throw-ins, corner kicks or crosses into the box, and the Blue Devils defended most with nine guys, not including goalkeeper Cory Aycock.

"They had everyone back on defense," Sanchez said. "Once we scored, they kept more guys back."

That approach didn't stop Southeast's first goal -- a Victor Garcia throw-in deflected off Aycock's hands and into the net in the sixth minute. It also didn't stop the third goal, with the Raiders holding a 2-1 lead and desperate to put the match away.

After a shot and deflection from one of 12 deep throw-ins for Southeast, Axl Arrendondo perfectly headed a pass to Sanchez, who volleyed home a strike inside the far post. The score came after Columbus' best offensive stretch, which netted a 62nd-minute score from Tristan Shytle (asist by Cameron Hite) cutting Southeast's lead to 2-1.

"It was just that 10- to 15-minute stretch where we let them control the pace," Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said.

"They scored, and for us, it was, 'OK, how will we respond?'"

Southeast, the runner-up last season to state-champion Dalton, has won 13 state playoff matches since the 2010 season and took 16 shots on Saturday. Columbus, which lost 2-1 to Johnson-Gainesville in last year's state playoffs, took seven.

"We knew they had the throw-in and we prepared for it," Columbus coach Tom Perry said. "That was something we tried being ready for, but you never are truly ready until you see it."

Columbus nearly took a 1-0 lead in the third minute, but Shytle's shot went wide of the left post.

Three minutes later, Garcia's score put Southeast ahead. Just two minutes after that, Ramiro Guerrero beat two Columbus defenders and found the net for a 2-0 lead.

"I loved the start," Kettenring said. "That was critical. That's been our thing, getting a good start, so that was critical."

The Raiders had chances to push ahead 3-0 in the first half, but Aycock made a diving save on Arrendondo's top-corner shot in the 33rd minute and a header off a corner kick sailed six inches above the crossbar in the 35th minute.

Southeast goalkeeper Ivan Ortiz made three saves, and Aycock helped Columbus with four.

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