OAKWOOD -- By their own admission, the West Hall boys soccer team has had trouble scoring at times this season. After a half of utter frustration against Cartersville where the Spartans had six corners, 11 shots, but no goals, West Hall boys soccer coach Tim Gale said it was time to open things up on offense in the second half.
"We said we were going to move everyone forward and see what happens," Gale said. "We were tired of not finishing plays."
It's a strategy that can make or break a game. Fortunately for the Spartans, it paid off as they pummeled the Hurricanes in the second half to pull away for a 4-0 win in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs Thursday at Spartans Stadium.
(NOTE: To see the playoff results of the area's other soccer teams from Thursday, simply click here.)
Junior Samuel Coto provided the icebreaker with a fabulous crowd-pleasing bicycle kick for West Hall's first goal with 23:50 left in the game and capped the scoring 13 minutes later.
"We just couldn't finish in the first half," Coto said. "We had a lot of chances but nothing would go in. Coach said we were moving up in the second half and I think that helped a lot.
"On the bicyle kick, I was a little surprised it went in. But after that I think everybody kind of relaxed."
Next up for the Spartans (11-5-2) is the winner of the Woodward Academy-East Jackson match next Tuesday. Woodward Academy is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA.
"If it's Woodward we'll just have to be prepared and try to play our best game," Coto said.
Despite playing a more defensive-minded first half, West Hall started fast storming the Cartersville defensive zone generating two corners in the first two minutes. But the Spartans were not able to get a clean shot on goal.
The Hurricanes (13-6) answered right back with a long ball into the West Hall end that produced a corner two minutes later. But a Cartersville shot was wide of the goal.
At the 32:00 mark of the first half the Spartans offense began to press the action. A nice run down the right side by Omar Castillo and a crossing pass to Riccardo Castruita ended with a flurry in front of the Cartersville goal and a shot that sailed high over the crossbar. Just seconds later after a Cartersville turnover Castillo just missed a 20-yard blast wide right.
The Hurricanes offense consisted mainly of long bouncing kicks from goal into the West Hall defensive end. Twice Cartersville was able to get deep in the West Hall end, once on a high bouncing pass into the box that West Hall keeper Cesar Villa was forced to punch out.
Cartersville had just one corner and three shots in the first half.
In the second half the Spartans went on the attack right from the kick off producing eight shots in the first 12 minutes. Ramsis Martinez just missed on a wheel kick less than 5-yards from the goal and Simon Cobian hit the crossbar on a 15-yard blast just moments after Martinez's shot.
Several times in the second half West Hall had all 10 players on the Cartersville side of the field. It finally paid off with 23:50 left in the game.
After a long pass downfield by Jordan Moreno, Coto wound up with the ball just to the left of the goal and looped a beautiful bicycle kick shot over Cartersville keeper Reid Selton's head for a 1-0 West Hall lead.
The Hurricanes had their best chance just two minutes later creating a corner after a long run down the left side. But the Spartans controlled the corner kick, and countered quickly.
Martinez started with a run and then passed into the box to Castillo, who was taken down to generate a penalty kick.
Moreno made it 2-0 on the PK sliding a shot into the left corner and the Spartans put the game out of reach 37 seconds later when Martinez took a Castillo pass and beat Selton with a header for a 3-0 lead with 19:26 left in the game.
Coto would add his second goal of the half nine minutes later for a 4-0 lead.
"Once we got that first one I think we showed what kind of team we can be," Gale said. "Our trouble scoring is puzzling because we have some great forwards. Maybe we're finally finding our way on offense."
NOTES: There has been no trouble with the West Hall defense. The Spartans have given up two goals or less in 10 straight games now. . .Cartersville had won 10 of its last 11 games overall and allowed more than two goals just once in that stretch until Thursday. . .The Hurricanes were 0-2 against Region 7-AAA teams in 2014. They lost to Dawson County 4-0 back in March.