GAINESVILLE -- A second straight clash of top-five titans proved too much for the Gainesville boys soccer team.
After winning an emotionally and physically-draining battle with non-region foe Johnson on Friday, the second-ranked Red Elephants could not find the juice to get past third-ranked Clarke Central on Tuesday.
Taking advantage of a second half penalty kick, the Gladiators handed the Red Elephants their first region defeat, 2-0 in a showdown that determined the Region 8-AAAAA crown at City Park.
Gainesville (14-2-1 overall, 7-1 Region 8-AAAAA) fought the Gladiators to a standstill throughout the first half and much of the second. But a Clarke Central (16-1, 8-0)
penalty kick swung the game on its head with 24 minutes remaining, and the Red Elephants never recovered.
Gainesville's region title hopes were then deflated by a second Gladiators goal with 12 minutes to play.
The two goals were all the Gladiators needed to seal the outcome, as Clarke Central pipped the Red Elephants to the No. 1 seed from 8-AAAAA for a second straight season.
"It's just the way things go sometimes, we just could not finish like we usually do on open opportunities," said Red Elephants assistant coach Dave Head, who took over coaching duties after head coach Rick Howard was ejected from the game in the 45th minute after being dealt double yellow cards.
Yet Gainesville so nearly took the lead minutes later when Christian Ochoa played Diego Porras through on goal. Porras could not find the killer touch, however, shooting right at Clarke Central goalkeeper Alex Navarro with 27 minutes remaining. Caesar Regaldo also went close to scoring in the first half, volleying a shot off the crossbar.
The Gladiators made the most of the let-offs, and three minutes later, Clarke Central created the turning point when a Gainesville defender was judged to have fouled a Gladiator in the Red Elephants' penalty area.
Italo Pastor smashed the ensuing penalty shot past Gainesville goalkeeper Gage Turner into the lower-left corner of the goal.
"The PK got us energized, it also forced Gainesville to change up their game plan," said Clark Central coach Chris Aiken.
Clarke Central's energized momentum led to another goal in the 68th minute. This time Alex Reyes took advantage of a counter-attack, connecting on a cross with Gabe Arcos, as Gainesville's defense backed off at the crucial moment.
"Once we got the second goal, it was all about changing formation more defensively for us and preserving the win," said Aiken.
The primary defensive gameplan for the Gladiators was in deterring Gainesville center midfielder and captain Ricardo Gomez, who often faced double and triple teams.
Gainesville finished as the No. 2 seed in Region 8-AAAAA and will look to recollect for the first-round of the state playoffs on April 29. The Red Elephants will host the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AAAAA.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 6,
CLARKE CENTRAL 0
The Lady Red Elephants played like a team on a mission Tuesday, wrapping up the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAAAA for the state playoffs.
Dominating throughout, Gainesville (12-3, 7-1 Region 8-AAAAA) cruised, controlling the pace of play and for a majority of the game keeping the ball on the Clarke Central side of the field.
In the first half, Gainesville sent a barrage of shots on goal and eventually netted two.
Rachel Dillard scored first by being at the right place at the right time, prodding home a loose ball that fell through the Clarke Central goalkeeper's hands with 8:26 left in the half. With 2:32 left in the half Breana Fair (two goals, one assist on the night) found Nayeli Espinoza, who put a nifty move on a defender before scoring for a 2-0 advantage.
Gainesville blew the game open after the interval, starting with 32:04 remaining on a breakaway goal by Fair. It took less then two minutes for the Lady Red Elephants to score again. This time, Jazmin Penado (one goal, one assist) nodded on a Margaret Carpenter corner kick for Alden Turner, who buried her shot.
Penado continued the assault, sending a towering shot over the goalkeeper's hands to push the lead to 5-0. Fair then scored the final goal of the contest, displaying her speed by sprinting past the defense for a breakaway goal.
The win sends the Lady Red Elephants into its April 30 first round state playoff contest against the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AAAAA.