RABBITTOWN — East Hall boys soccer coach Chris Horton makes no bones about what drives the Vikings.
“We like to push the ball offensively and keep the other team on the defensive as much as possible,” Horton said Wednesday after his Vikings opened the Class AAA playoffs with a dominating 5-1 win over Stone Mountain at East Hall Stadium.
And while the offense was in total command producing 22 shots on goal and controlling the ball more than 75 percent of the time, it may be an improved East Hall defense that will determine if the Vikings can make a repeat trip to the state championship game.
Speedy defenders Giezi Barrientos and Kevin Bran, before he left with a severe cramp, anchored the defense, which limited the Pirates to six shots on goal until late in the match. The Pirates lone goal came with just four minutes left after the first unit had been subbed out.
“Giezi played very well but I thought they all did,” Horton said. “They did a good job of getting the ball out whenever (Stone Mountain) got into the zone. But we feel we help our defense by staying on the attack offensively. It all works together.”
Forward Sergio Turcios put on a display of shifty moves and pinpoint passes tallying five points, including a hat trick. His looping pass over the Pirates defense that Carlos Castrejon was able to corral 30 yards out and then chip past the Stone Mountain keeper, who came out to challenge, for a 1-0 lead just three minutes in set the tone of what was to come.
Initially the teams traded turnovers in the opening minute that resulted in a Stone Mountain corner, which did not produce a shot on goal. A midfield battle followed the goal kick with East Hall producing the first scoring chance that Turcios and Castrejon did not waste.
The pair traded places later in first half when Castrejon feed Turcios on a laser pass down the left side. Turcios outraced two defenders with the dribble and slid a low shot past a diving keeper for a 2-0 lead in the 26th minute.
Turcios made it 3-0 less than four minutes later banging in a rebound off his own shot and keeper save after he had taken a feed from Brandon Callahan just outside the box.
The Vikings (15-4) posted 11 shots to just four for Stone Mountain (9-5) in the first half.
“Our wings pressed the ball well and found some open guys. I thought they did a great job of attacking,” Horton said.
East Hall kept the pressure on in the second half and added on in the 48th minute. Callahan chipped in a beautiful cross from Turcios, who had gotten a chip pass from Maury Ibarra, to push the lead to 4-0 with 32:55 left.
Turcios had two more potential goals denied, however, when first his breakaway attack was thwarted by an acrobatic save with 17 minutes left. Two minutes later the Stone Mountain keeper made diving stop off a Turcios blast from 10-yards out.
Turcios finally registered the hat trick with 4:58 left with a run down the right side and then bending a shot past a reaching keeper for a 5-0 advantage.
Less than a minute later Stone Mountain’s Juan Rodriquez got the Pirates on the board bending a beautiful 30-yard blast past backup East Hall keeper Daniel Carrillo to cut the lead to 5-1.
Eduardo Mata had one assist and Oscar Rosas had five saves in goal for East Hall.
The Vikings now move on to play Crisp County next Wednesday in the second round.
NOTES: Stone Mountain came into the match on a roll going 4-1-1 to close out the regular season. The 5 goals allowed were the second-most allowed by the Pirates in a match on the season. ... East Hall has allowed 1 goal or less 14 times in 19 matches. ... It was the eighth match scoring 5 or more goals for the Vikings.