RABBITTOWN -- Tuesday's wind proved bitter, brutal and -- for Tyler Shows and North Hall -- divine.
Shows made the most of the blustery conditions at East Hall Stadium in a top 10 showdown with the host Vikings, lofting a 45-yard free kick that virtually stopped in midair -- just before dropping into the back of the East Hall net for the winning goal in a tight, 2-1 finale.
"I was aiming for the goal, but I wasn't quite expecting that," Shows said. "I guess I just had the wind on my side."
The Trojans' win added to a dominating, 10-0 victory for North Hall in the girls contest -- which produced little of the drama on display in the nightcap.
While Mother Nature may have helped, the ninth-ranked Trojans (8-2-1, 4-1 Region 7-AAA) provided plenty of substance of their own, especially on defense, where Shows and his teammates repelled numerous East Hall attacks after taking the lead for good with 36:05 left to play.
North Hall needed every ounce of its grit and determination against a Vikings squad that kept the visitors under consistent pressure. Yet -- despite one defensive miscue in the first half -- the Trojans held firm thanks in large part to the play of defenders like Shows, Henry Taylor and goalkeeper Abraham Elias.
"We performed well; there's always room for improvement -- but East Hall's a good team and a major competitor for us, so that was a big win," said Shows, whose goal helped hand the Vikings their first region defeat while keeping North Hall in the midst of the 7-AAA title hunt.
The way things started, it looked like a score-fest might be in order, as North Hall's Hunter Carter and East Hall's Leo Toledo each bagged goals inside the first seven minutes.
In fact Carter scored just 1:30 into the contest, beating the East Hall defense to a Shows free kick before turning and blasting an 18-yard shot over the outstretched hands of East Hall goalkeeper Emmanuel Andrade.
The lead lasted all of five minutes.
With East Hall growing in confidence, a North Hall defensive miscue helped the fifth-ranked Vikings (5-2-3, 2-1) knot the score, as Toledo quickly tracked a pass back to Elias and blocked the keeper's attempted clearance into the Trojans' net for a 1-1 scoreline.
The early offensive flurry proved the exception, however, as the two teams battled back and forth in midfield for the rest of the half. And while East Hall held the majority of possession, the Vikings could not produce the kind of shots that tested Elias -- at least early.
Just after halftime, however, North Hall's Shows came up with the kind of shot that few defenses could repel.
Lining up a free kick from 45 yards, Shows launched an effort that initially seemed bound for the East Hall dressing rooms. But as the ball arced into the penalty area it hung in the face of the winds ripping across a frigid East Hall Stadium before slanting over Andrade and into the Vikings' goal.
"It was so tough out there tonight; you couldn't predict where the ball was going a lot of the time," Shows said.
The eye-opening goal only hardened East Hall's resolve, however, and the Vikings' Jason Mendoza almost immediately forced a diving save from Elias, smacking an 18-yard shot that the North Hall keeper pushed around the goalpost.
Elias also proved alert with 20 minutes remaining, diving at the feet of Rudolfo Meza to smother a loose ball just in front of the Vikings attacker.
Yet North Hall's defense maintained its grip on the lead, and the Trojans could have taken a two-goal advantage with 6:30 remaining when East Hall was whistled for a handball in the penalty area. Yet Andrade proved up to the task, diving to his right to deny a penalty kick attempt from Jake Stephens.
East Hall could not take advantage of the stand, however, as North Hall held on for the victory.
The Trojans go back on the road Friday for another crucial region battle, taking on Dawson County at 7:30 p.m. in Dawsonville.
North Hall and West Hall are currently tied for first in 7-AAA, with East Hall and Dawson County one game back.
The Vikings, meanwhile, will travel to West Hall on Friday in another crunch region contest of their own.