Ea­gles take 7-AA

A late burst from the Coosa boys’ soccer team helps them cap­ture the re­gion cham­pi­onship.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Tommy Ro­manach Sports Writer TRo­manach@RN-T.com

The goals were go­ing to come. Coosa coach Ruben Mal­don­ado knew it.

Even af­ter his team fell be­hind early in the first half, even af­ter 60 min­utes of close calls, he knew his team would break through in its most im­por­tant match of the sea­son. And when that first goal did come, the sec­ond wasn’t too far be­hind.

Af­ter trail­ing Pep­perell for most of Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the Ea­gles tal­lied three goals in the fi­nal 20 min­utes to de­feat the Dragons 3-1 at Lin­dale. The vic­tory gave Coosa the Re­gion 7-AA ti­tle and the No. 1 seed en­ter­ing the Class AA state playoffs next week.

“I said it from the begin­ning, that we were go­ing to go out there and beat them,” Mal­don­ado said. “Give Pep­perell a lot of credit for how they fought. But we knew when we were down 1-0 we just needed to score one and the next one would come easy.”

Coosa (16-2, 13-1 7-AA) earned goals from Chan­dler Hub­bard, No­hel Paz and Jose Reyes, with Aaron Ca­ma­cho notch­ing an as­sist. Pep­perell’s Sla­mon Ghani scored the team’s only goal, while the Dragons’ de­fen­sive back line negated ev­ery Coosa at­tack for the first 60 min­utes.

Pep­perell (11-5-1, 11-3) came out ag­gres­sive to be­gin the match, even­tu­ally re­sult­ing in a goal for Ghani in the 11th minute. But

Coosa 3, Pep­perell 1

Pep­perell be­gan to back off in its at­tack and Coosa started win­ning more balls in the cen­ter field, thus con­trol­ling the pos­ses­sion.

“When we came out in the sec­ond half, we de­cided to set back and pro­tect the goal,” Pep­perell coach Brian Crick said. “But I kept telling them we had to push up. What was hap­pen­ing was they kept get­ting those balls in the cir­cle and they kept creep­ing in on us.”

The Dragons got a chance in the 58th minute when striker Ramiro Ala­nis broke past the de­fense and net­ted what looked like a sec­ond Pep­perell goal but he was called off­side.

from B1

Coosa’s con­sis­tent pres­sure paid off on cor­ner kicks. One from the left side found Hub­bard in the mid­dle of the goal to notch the game 1-1 with 16 min­utes left to play.

Eight min­utes later, a cor­ner from the right side reached the far post, where Paz was wait­ing to head it in. Mal­don­ado cred­ited the two scores to the con­sis­tent work his team does in prac­tice dur­ing the week.

“Those were two cor­ner kicks that the coaches had put to­gether for a while,” Mal­don­ado said. “I’ll take a lit­tle credit for the sec­ond one, but it came down to the guys ex­e­cut­ing the play.”

Pep­perell had one more chance min­utes af­ter Paz’s goal, but a cor­ner kick for the Dragons quickly went awry. Reyes led a cor­ner the other way, even­tu­ally draw­ing a foul inside the box. The penalty kick swept to the right of Pep­perell keeper Rigo Man­du­jano and be­came the game’s fi­nal goal.

Both teams will ad­vance to the Class AA state playoffs and host first-round con­tests next week. Af­ter making it through Re­gion 7-AA with only one loss, Mal­don­ado knows his team can make a run.

“The kids have been pretty fo­cused to be­gin with and that only in­creases,” Mal­don­ado said. “They never gave up today. They al­ways kept fight­ing. Ev­ery­body kept their heads up all game long, and that is most im­por­tant.”

Jeremy Ste­wart / Rome News-Tribune

The Coosa boys’ soccer team cel­e­brates with coach Ruben Mal­don­ado (cen­ter) af­ter de­feat­ing Pep­perell and win­ning the Re­gion 7-AA ti­tle Thurs­day at Pep­perell. The Ea­gles de­feated the Dragons 3-1.

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