By Nathan DeenMay 8, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 8, 2013) -- Hardaway High School head soccer coach Rich Iden wanted his team to play aggressive Wednesday against Northgate in the opening round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA playoffs.
The Hawks may have overdone it; a red card against Hardaway helped Northgate to break a 1-1 tie late in the second half Wednesday at Woodruff Farms Soccer Complex.
The Vikings took advantage of those misfortunes and defeated the Hawks 3-1 to move on to the second round. It was the school's first playoff win for boys soccer, head coach Bryan Hicks said.
"I'm excited for my boys," Hicks said. "That's pretty awesome."
The aggressive play allowed Hardaway to control the tempo in the first half as they held a 1-0 lead after Tony Redmond drove in a goal in the 13th minute on a beautiful set-up play. Hector Zamuido pretended to hit a free kick from about 20 yards, but instead passed right to Tito Echevarria.
Echevarria passed left to Redmond, who found a hole to shoot through and netted it into the left side of the goal.
"I thought you could see our best game in the first half," Iden said. "We did exactly what we wanted to do, but we just couldn't maintain it in the second half."
By halftime, the Hawks had already accumulated 18 fouls and three yellow cards.
With the scored tied 1-1, Gabe Julien picked up a red card and was ejected from the game in the 65th minute, forcing Hardaway to play the rest of the way a man down. To make things worse, Redmond began battling leg cramps and had to come out of the game.
With Redmond, a senior who Iden said is the team's best defender, on the bench, Northgate took advantage and scored the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute.
Levi Lewis kicked a perfect ball off a free kick from about 30 yards over the heads of the Hardaway defenders and Jamie Skalski headed it into the right corner of the goal.
"It was beautiful," Hicks said. "Picture perfect. It still gives me chills."
From there, Hardaway continued to struggle on defense and Ryan McNeal added an insurance goal in the closing minutes for Northgate.
"The red card kind of finished us off," Iden said.
"We got tired and had some people go down. It just fell apart at the end."
Hardaway earned a No. 2 seed after finishing behind Bainbridge in Region 1-AAAAA.
Northgate had the No. 3 seed in Region 4-AAAAA, which includes powerhouse programs McIntosh and Starr's Mill.
Hicks said a tough regular season schedule helped his team comeback from the early deficit.
"I never really felt like we were in too much danger," Hicks said. "I just thought we needed to play our game.
"We play in the best region in the state. You have to battle, you have to scrap and overcome adversity every day."