By Joseph Myers
Special To The Ledger-Enquirer
Prior to Tuesday night's Class A state playoff match against Landmark Christian, the Brookstone's boys soccer team hadn't played since April 22, a rare break this late in the season.
However, the fourth-ranked Cougars showed few signs of rust, as they netted two goals in the match's first 10 minutes en route to a 5-0 thrashing of Landmark.
"I think part of the reason why we came out playing so hard early was great coaching," said Brookstone senior Stephen Poydasheff, who finished with a hat trick in the romp. "(Brookstone coach Billy Byrd) stays on us, and we had a lot of hard practices while we were off. It wasn't a matter of being ready to play physically. It was just whether we'd be ready mentally."
Brookstone (12-2-2) will host Savannah Christian in the state quarterfinals Friday night with a kickoff time to be determined. Savannah Christian advanced to the Elite Eight by outlasting Athens Christian, 3-2, in overtime in Savannah Tuesday night.
"Regardless of who we're playing, we know it's going to be a strong opponent," said Byrd, whose team is now 7-1-2 in its last 10 matches"
Poydasheff got the scoring going in the eighth minute off a cross from Jake Raines. He added another two minutes later.
Less than two minutes after that, Jamie Sheek got loose down the left wing and fired a shot that Landmark goalie Luke Vineyard stopped, but the rebound went right to Peyton Good, who slotted home his shot to put Brookstone up 3-0 less than 12 minutes into the match.
"I was worried about how we'd do after such a long break," Byrd said. "But having a bye in the first round (of the playoffs) was actually a good thing because it gave us some time to heal. Our guys did a good job of staying focused, and we got to play a lot of our bench guys. We have good depth and those guys are hungry to play."
Poydasheff finished off his hat trick in the 20th minute and Brookstone took a 4-0 lead into halftime. The Cougars outshot Landmark 14-2 in the opening 40 minutes as Landmark (7-8) -- which had knocked off Calvary Day 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs -- struggled to muster many scoring chances.
Brookstone added one goal in the second half, this one coming in the 46th minute on a long shot by Martin Ramos, but the Cougars controlled the run of play for the entire final 40 minutes. Byrd substituted liberally to rest his players ahead of Friday's quarterfinal match as well as give his younger players an opportunity to shine.
"It was great for us to be able to play a lot of people," said Poydasheff. "You always want your role players to be able to come in and play well. You never know when you might need them to step up. Not only will this help us for this year, but it'll help for next year as well."
Even though it came away with just one goal, Brookstone outshot Landmark, 17-4, in the second half and 31-6 for the match. The Cougars also had five corner kicks, while the War Eagles took just one. Brookstone keeper Ben Holt worked all 80 minutes in goal, making four saves to help the Cougars post their seventh clean sheet of the season.
Tuesday at Brookstone
Goals--Brrokstone: Stephen Poydasheff 3, Martin Ramos, Peyton Good. Assists--Brookstone: Jake Raines, Jamie Sheek.. Goalies--Landmark Christian: Luke Vineyard 9 saves, Brookstone: Ben Holt 4 saves. Records--Landmark Christian 7-8, Brookstone 12-2-2. Next: Savannah Christian at Brookstone (Class A State Playoffs Quarterfinals) Friday, Time TBD.