Morris Innovative High School’s boys soccer team survived three different goalkeepers, two yellow cards and an early goal by Pepperell.
After withstanding all of that, the Tigers can now claim the first winning streak of the program’s young existence.
Morris Innovative won 5-1 Monday at Harmon Field in a Region 7-2A contest on the first official day of the 2013 Georgia High School Association soccer season. Earlier in the evening, the Lady Tigers played their first game in program history, losing 7-0 to the startup Lady Dragons.
With Morris Innovative trailing 1-0 in the first half of the boys game, freshman Elmer Hernandez’s shot from the right corner of the penalty box stayed inside the left post, tying the game in the 33rd minute. Just four minutes later, his attempt from 30 yards away sailed above Pepperell goalie Jox Duarte’s head and into the back of the net.
“On the second one, I saw it rolling and went for it,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t think it’d go in. I just looked at the goalie and when I shot it and saw it in the air, I didn’t think it would go in. I thought he would block it. Then it went over (his head).”
In the 64th minute, Felipe Barrientos’ shot bounced off a Pepperell defender and into the net. Adrian Love scored the final two goals — one awarded to him from a Pepperell own goal in the 69th minute and the second from a corner kick he curved around the near post and past the goalie in the 75th minute.
“It was good to control some of the tempo and a lot of the possession,” Tigers coach Ernie Dempsey said. “But we had a lot of bad touches and bad decisions out there. ... They should have good control on a (field) like this. They were either holding the ball too long when they should’ve passed it quickly or passed it too early when they should’ve held on a little longer.”
In the 54th minute, Tigers goalie Danny Alonzo injured his leg stopping a long shot, one of three saves he made in the game. He was replaced by Eduardo Padilla, who had received a yellow card for a dangerous play earlier in the game.
In the 71st minute, Padilla picked up the ball near the top of the box, and as a Pepperell defender approached, Padilla raised one knee and made contact. The referee issued a second yellow card and ejected Padilla.
Hernandez, who scored twice in the first half, finished the game in goal with Morris Innovative playing with only 10 players on the field.
“It was a very chippy game,” Dempsey said. “They didn’t play dirty. Pepperell played a very clean, physical game.”
With the win, the Tigers now have won two straight games dating back to last season. Morris Innovative ended its inaugural campaign with a 2-1 victory against Darlington and a 1-11-1 overall record.
“Technically, we’re on a winning streak crossing regular seasons,” Dempsey said.
Morris Innovative plays two more region games this week — at Model tomorrow and hosting Coosa on Friday.
Despite dominating the shots on goal throughout the game, Morris Innovative did not score the first goal.
Felix Guijosa scored in the 26th minute for Pepperell, which is fielding soccer teams for the first time. Guijosa’s strike from near the top of the penalty box stayed low enough to evade Alonzo.
The Tigers took 25 shots total, with 15 on target. The Dragons took nine shots, with just three on goal.
“What we’re looking at is a lot of guys who didn’t play soccer before,” Pepperell coach Brian Crick said. “We have a lot of kids who haven’t played before, and about four or five who have. While the four or five know where to be, the others don’t. So, we’re out of position a lot.”
• Pepperell girls 7, Morris Innovative 0: With just nine players on the field in the team’s first game in history, the Lady Tigers allowed a goal in the eighth minute and kept things that way until the 18th minute.
Morris Innovative’s best chances to score came at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. On the final play before halftime, Liz Arevalos’ shot rolled past the Pepperell goalie but was stopped by a defender. In the 47th minute, a Lady Tigers corner kick required a save.
Morris Innovative coach Irene Quintero said the team has 12 players on the roster, but three were missing “for various reasons.” It also was the Lady Dragons’ first game ever.
“I guess it was just a coincidence that we were both new teams,” Quintero said. “I think it’s a good thing, because we’re kind of playing someone on our same level. It gives us an opportunity to grow. At the same time, it would’ve been better if we had the whole team. I think we might have had a different outcome.”
Morris Innovative took five shots, while Pepperell had 23. The Lady Dragons led 3-0 at halftime.
• Murray County boys 2, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 2: The Indians took a 2-1 lead at the half, but the Warriors tied the game in the second half and the non-region contest ended in a tie.
Sophomore forward Juan Bautista scored in the 17th minute of the game, and freshman midfielder Eric Soto scored in the 26th minute for the Indians. Humberto Alvarez had five saves in goal for Murray County, while senior defender Manny Bautista was noted for his play by Indians coach Margo Burgueno.
“Overall, it was a pretty even game and a good start for our guys,” Burgueno said.
n Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe girls 4, Murray County 0: The Lady Indians dropped their season opener at home.
• Fellowship Christian girls 52, Christian Heritage 38: The Lady Lions cut Fellowship Christian’s lead down to eight points in the second half, but the Lady Paladins responded and ended Christian Heritage’s season in the opening round of the Region 6-A tournament at Mt. Paran Christian.
“We played very hard and gave a ton of effort, but we missed free throws and some key layups,” Christian Heritage coach Heather Lowery said.
Sarah Massengale, who was named to the All-Region 6-A Team, which was announced at the tournament, led the Lady Lions (5-21) with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Rebecca Leonard added 13 points, and Jordan Suddeth finished with eight rebounds.
The loss brought to a close the team’s inaugural campaign in the GHSA after having several successful runs in the state tournament over the past five years while competing in the Georgia Independent School Association.
“I told the girls at the end of the game to leave with their heads held high,” Lowery said. “Looking at where we were in the first game of the year against Dalton to where we are now, we have improved so much. We are young, but we made some vast improvements this season.
“I don’t think we need to be ashamed of anything. We are already excited about next year and the things we are going to do to get better.”
• Northwest Whitfield’s girls and boys teams, Sub-region 7B-4A’s No. 1 seeds for the Region 7-4A tournaments, now know their opponents for the quarterfinals as they begin postseason play on Wednesday.
That was among the matters settled on the second day of competition at Dalton High School, where four second-round matchups got the tournaments going in earnest after a pair of games on Saturday.
Northwest’s boys will take on Pickens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in a pivotal game — as with all of the tournament’s quarterfinals, the winner clinches a spot in the state tournament but the loser is done for the season — with the Dragons earning the quarterfinals spot with Monday’s 50-37 win against LaFayette.
Jacob Stephens’ 15-point effort paced Pickens, which led at each quarter break, including 37-24 going into the final period. Tyler Shropshire led LaFayette with 13 points.
In the night’s other boys game, Ridgeland’s Jalin Smith scored 18 points as the Panthers beat Cedartown 62-47. The Bulldogs’ Exzavier Pace led all scorers with 19 points, but the Panthers had little trouble moving on, leading 34-15 at halftime and 49-26 after three quarters.
Ridgeland will take on Gilmer, Sub-region 7A-4A’s No. 1 seed, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
In the girls tournament, LaFayette beat Cass 56-41 to set up a quarterfinals matchup against Northwest at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Ashley Huskins’ 14-point effort led Cass, while Shelby Narmore and Tori Hunter each had 11 to top the list of scorers for LaFayette, which overcame a 22-18 halftime deficit and led 30-28 heading into the final period.
In the night’s other girls game, Heritage-Catoosa won 66-44 against Cedartown. Heritage’s Alex Belk and Cedartown’s Allie Gravitt each had 12 points.
Heritage, which led Cedartown 40-19 at halftime, will take on Sub-region 7A-4A No. 1 seed River Ridge at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
In today’s girls quarterfinals, Southeast Whitfield faces Pickens at 4 p.m. and Gilmer takes on Dalton at 7 p.m. In the boys quarterfinals, Heritage plays River Ridge at 5:30 p.m. and Cass faces Dalton at 8:30 p.m.