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Sunday May 29th, 2016 12:10AM

Soccer: Moreno hat trick propels Spartans into AAA semifinals

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
OAKWOOD -- After arguably the biggest win in program history Tuesday night over No. 1-ranked Woodward Academy, West Hall made sure there would be no letdown Friday against Peach County.

The Spartans came out fast and strong behind Jordan Moreno, who recorded a hat trick in the first 15 minutes en route to a 6-0 victory over the Trojans and a berth in the Class AAA semifinals.

Next up for West Hall (13-5-2) will be Oconee County and a rematch of last year's second round match. The Spartans are looking for some payback after falling 2-0 to the Warriors last year. Oconee County knocked off Savannah Arts 5-1 Friday night to move into the semifinals.

"I think the guys wanted Oconee County," West Hall coach Tim Gale said. "We changed some things in that game (last year) in they didn't work out the way we wanted. Hopefully things will be different this time."

As far as change, no change has had more of an impact on the Spartans than when Gale opened things up offensively after a sluggish, and scoreless, first half against Cartersville in the first round. They have scored 13 goals over their last five halves since.

They also are as solid defensively as you can get allowing just eight goals over their last 12 games, and just one in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

So which style is the real Spartans?

"I think what you see offensively is what we can be," Gale said. "But it starts with our defense. We decided to more guys forward to give us some more weapons and we feel we have the guys that can do that. But we have to win the middle first. If we do that, then we can push forward."

The rainy, soggy conditions did not slow down the Spartans at the start. They generated a corner opportunity in the opening minute and two shots just three minutes in.

West Hall continued to attack the Peach County defense and got a second corner with 36 minutes left in the first half. Riccardo Castruita lobbed a beautiful pass over the Trojans defense and Moreno was able to head the ball in for a goal with 35:54 left and give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

Moreno nearly had a second goal two minutes later but a blast from 15-yards out hit the crossbar. The Spartans kept up the assault producing two more corners and seven shots over the next five minutes.

Moreno would strike again with 27:04 left in the half on a feed from Sammy Coto and then got the hat trick with 25:09 left on his third goal on just four shots for a 3-0 West Hall lead.

"We saw some video and felt we could get some shots," said Moreno, who recorded his first hat trick with West Hall. "I'm just happy I was able to come through for the team."

The two teams went back-and-forth over the next 15 minutes but the Spartans picked up the attack again in the late stages of the first half. They generated two corners in a minute span and then Ronald Portillo gave West Hall a 4-0 lead with 9:16 left on a gorgeous 35-yard looping shot just over the outstretched hands of Peach County keeper Chipper Messer.

Castruita would cap the first half explosion with a goal on a rebound off Messer with 1:31 left in the half for a 5-0 lead.

West Hall did not let up in the second half peppering Messer with 18 shots in the final 40 minutes but got just the one goal. It started with a nice blast by Portilla but the ball pinballed off Messer and the crossbar and was knocked in by a Peach County defender trying to clear for an own goal.

The Spartans finished with 13 corner opportunities to go with 38 shots in the game, most of those coming from close range.

Cesar Villa did not get many opportunities in the West Hall goal but made four saves on eight Peach County shots.

Messer finished with 12 saves for the Trojans, who finished their season at 9-9-1. They went 6-3-1 over their last 10 games, however.
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