By Jacob Smith
For the Forsyth County News
When the reigning region champions match up against the reigning state champions, fans in the crowd should expect hard-fought soccer by both teams.
And that’s exactly what they got Thursday when the Forsyth Central's boys soccer team defeated South Forsyth 1-0 in a game full of defense
“South is a really good team,” Forsyth Central Will Gifford said. “They’re talented and aggressive moving forward. I’m really proud of our guys. They competed with a lot of character, especially in the second half. This region is brutal. Every team in this region can play. So we won a game, and that’s awesome, but we’re just rolling.”
The lone goal of Thursday’s match came from Central junior Lucas Olivera, who sent a scorching free kick into the back of the net from 15 yards with 33:40 left in the match. The Bulldogs ran to the sideline to celebrate as a team the moment they watched the ball whiz past South Forsyth’s goalie.
Gifford said he challenged his team going into the second half and was proud of his team for scoring early.
“I felt we did not play very well in the first half, so at the break we talked about what was required of us to be competitive in this game,” Gifford said. “The guys went out and did what they asked us to do. That’s who they are. The team has a lot of humility. They’re willing to do the dirty work on defense. And good things happen to teams that are willing to compete.”
This is the second year in a row that Central has beaten the reigning Class 7A state champion after taking down region opponent Lambert in a 1-0 battle last year.
Central won the region last year but lost against South Gwinnett in the Elite Eight of the 2021 state tournament. However, Gifford said he and his coaching staff have avoided any sort of comparison between this squad and past teams.
Central entered Thursday's game ranked No. 5 in the latest Class 7A rankings.
“The truth is, every year is a new year,” Gifford said. “Each group has their own personality. What I love about this group is that they really just love to compete. They work hard in training. They compete for something greater than self. And I don’t know what that means long term, because every night is a new night.”
The War Eagles had plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the game and had plenty of on-goal attempts, but were unable to get any in the net. With 33 seconds left in the game, South had a throw-in on Central’s side of the field but could not get a shot attempt off.
South [4-4, 0-1 Region 6-7A] will continue its run to repeat as state champions on Tuesday when the War Eagles travel to Cambridge.
Central [4-0-2, 1-0 Region 6-7A] remains undefeated on the season. Gifford said his team needs to continue to keep getting better throughout the remainder of the season to reach their ultimate goal of a state championship.
“Hopefully our best soccer is ahead of us and not behind us,” Gifford said. “But in all seriousness, I don’t really think of it as a comparison to last year’s teams. Just like in life, we’re going to do our best to maximize our talent on this year’s squad. Truthfully, I believe our best soccer is in front of us.”
Central’s season continues Tuesday against Milton.