Hawks lead at half, but loseto Northgate
By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
For the first 60 minutes of Wednesday's Class AAAAA boys state playoff soccer match, things were going fairly well for the Hardaway Hawks.
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Hardaway led Northgate, 1-0, and the Hawks' defense had managed to withstand all of the Vikings' scoring chances.
However, Northgate took control of the match in the final 20 minutes and parlayed a Hardaway red card into two goals in the last 10 minutes to rally for a 3-1 victory at Woodrfuff Farms.
"We started playing cautious in the second half and were thinking too much," Hardaway coach Rick Iden said. "The red card just finished us off. You saw our best game in the first half, but we just ran out of gas."
With the win, Northgate (10-6) advances to the second round on May 8, when the Vikings will travel to No. 2 Houston County (18-0). Houston County advanced by thumping Bradwell Institute, 6-1, Wednesday in Warner Robins.
Hardaway (14-3) and Northgate, which has won five straight since a three-match losing streak, traded the momentum for the first 10-plus minutes of the match before the Hawks broke through for the first goal.
In the 14th minute, Hardaway got an indirect kick from just outside the penalty area. Tito Echevarria tapped the ball over to Tony Redmond, whose shot beat Northgate keeper Cooper Morrison into the lower left corner of the net.
Hardaway controlled the run of play for the next 20 or so minutes, when Northgate picked things back up just before halftime. However, Hardaway still held a 1-0 halftime lead despite being whistled for 16 fouls -- to Northgate's seven --
and having three players in the books with yellow cards.
The second half started much like the first, with Northgate trying to get on the scoreboard and Hardaway defending and counterattacking when it could. The Vikings tied the match at 1 in the 62nd minute when Trent Harper got loose in the penalty area and went 1-on-1 with Hardaway keeper David Scott. Scott stopped Harper's first shot, but Harper pounced on the rebound and put it in the back of the net to tie things up.
The goal put the Hawks on their heels and things got no better three minutes later when Gabe Julien, already in the books with a first-half yellow card, was whistled for a foul and given a second yellow card. That resulted in a red card for Julien and Hardaway had to play the rest of the match a man down.
Northgate didn't let up in its pursuit of a second goal and in the 70th minute, the Vikings got it when a wide-open Jamie Skalski headed home a direct kick by Levi Lewis to give Northgate a 2-1 lead.
"We had a couple of misfortunes just add together and it cost us," said Iden. "We had the red card happen and then one of our best defenders (Echevarria) was out with a cramp and they scored."
With the Hawks desperately searching for an equalizer, Northgate was able to get several counterattacking opportunities and the Vikings netted an insurance goal in the 79th minute when Ryan McNeal scored off a give-and-go with Harper.
The match was physical throughout, with the teams combining for 41 fouls (25 on Hardaway, 16 on Northgate), six yellow cards (five on Hardaway) and one red card.
Wednesday at Woodruff
Goals--Northgate: Trent Harper, Jamie Skalski, Ryan McNeal. Hardaway: Tony Redmond. Assists--Northgate: Levi Lewis, Trent Harper. Hardaway: Tito Echevarria. Goalies--Northgate: Cooper Morrison 5 saves. Hardaway: David Scott 7 saves. Records--Northgate 10-6, Hardaway 14-3. Next: Northgate at No. 2 Houston County (State Playoffs Second Round) May 8.