GAINESVILLE — For the first 60 minutes Wednesday night, the Gainesville boys built a 4-1 lead over Richmond Hill and looked ready to cruise into the Class 6A semifinals for a second straight season.
However, the Wildcats used the final 20 minutes to nearly stage a remarkable comeback before eventually falling short in a 4-3 Red Elephants’ win at City Park Stadium.
Gainesville (17-2-1) led 2-0 at halftime and 4-1 after 60 minutes on goals from Bryan Lopez, José Aguilera, Armando Hernandez, and Pedro Santos.
But coach Eli Viviant, wanting to rest some key players for what looked like a sure semifinal berth with just eight minutes left, said things turned sour quickly.
“We started playing to their level. We were careless and paid for it toward the end of the game when I tried to rest a few players,” Viviant said. “I was not happy with my coaching today. This is on me. Hopefully, I will do better (on Tuesday) so that we can continue.”
The Red Elephants had several chances to extend their lead before the Wildcats scored twice in a 5-minute span to pull within 4-3 with three minutes left.
Gainesville now moves to the semifinals and will face a familiar for in Cambridge, who knocked the Red Elephants out of the 2018 playoffs in the semifinals in Milton. It was a wild affair that saw Gainesville receive two red cards and have a goal disallowed in a 3-0 loss.
This time, they will be at City Park Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 pm. On Tuesday
UNION COUNTY BOYS 4,
JEFF DAVIS 0
Senior Brian Smith poured in a hat trick to lead the Panthers to their first-ever semifinal appearance in a win in the Class 2A playoffs.
Smith scored his first goal less than 30 seconds into the contest and made it 2-0 five minutes later. It stayed that way until Smith completed the hat trick with a goal with just under eight minutes left.
Kobi Robbins got the final score on a header with five minutes left.
Union County (12-4) next will travel to Vidalia for a chance at its first-ever state championship game appearance.
JEFFERSON BOYS 1,
TATTNALL COUNTY 0
Roberto Quintal broke a scoreless tie late in the first half and the Dragons defense made it stand up in a win in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Quintal’s goal came in the 35th minute.
It was the 11th straight win for Jefferson (16-2) whose defense has pitched three consecutive shutouts in the playoffs and fifth straight overall. The Dragons have played more than 400 consecutive minutes without surrendering a goal.
The Dragons next will travel to Westminster on Tuesday with a shot at the finals on the line.