RABBITTOWN — Rough start. Low energy. Early deficit.
The East Hall boys rallied from all of the above to beat Druid Hills 2-1 in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs at East Hall Stadium Thursday night.
“Their speed kind of caught the guys a little bit and then they get a (penalty kick) and we’re down early. It was not the kind of start we were hoping for,” East Hall coach Mark Wade said. “But the guys never gave up and then we got that first goal. That seemed to get everyone going.”
In the opening eight minutes, the Vikings were a step slow. After an East Hall turnover at midfield, Druid Hills put together a quick counter that ended with an East Hall foul in the box. The Red Devils converted the penalty kick for a 1-0 lead with 32:58 left in the half.
It stayed that way for nearly 30 minutes. Then the Vikings got what they needed.
Edder Montesnos somehow found the net from midfield on a direct kick that slid through traffic past a screened keeper to tie the game at 1 with 5:11 left.
“We tried to create some traffic and sometimes that will happen,” Wade said. “That was a huge play for us. We were concerned about going into the half down 1-0 but after that the energy really picked up.”
The Vikings had two more good chances in the waning moments of the half but a blast from inside the box was blocked and another sailed wide.
East Hall came out on the attack in the second generating several runs. The Vikings finally got the lead in the 46th minute when senior Averen Samuels hammered home a rebound from inside 5-yards off a pair of shots to give them a 2-1 advantage with 34:45 left.
“The coaches had told me at halftime to stay back some close in and that’s what I did,” he said. “It just came to me. There was no way I was going to miss that.”
From there, the Vikings (13-4-1) clamped down defensively on the Red Devils (9-10-1). The East Hall backline, along with keeper Walter Bran, allowed just two shots in the second half, both easily corralled by Bran.
Now, the Vikings will play host to LaGrange, a 5-0 winner over Bainbridge, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday for a shot at their second Final Four in four seasons.
“I got to go as a freshman so it would be great to make it again as a senior,” Samuels said. “I think this team has a chance to get to Macon if we just keep playing our game.”
NOTES: The Vikings have allowed just 12 goals on the season. ... Druid Hills came in just 5-7-1 in games decided by two goals or less. ... East Hall improved to 5-4 on the season in one-goal games.