Ben Rivard’s four goals helped lead Pinecrest Academy to a 5-1 victory over North Cobb Christian School in the first round of the Class A private school state playoffs on Tuesday night.
“We played a great game against a formidable team and it was definitely a struggle getting into it at first,” Rivard said. “But once we found our shape and started playing off each other it was really just an amazing team effort and we couldn’t have done it without any individual player.”
It only took Pinecrest (10-7) three minutes to get on the board when Rivard took it himself down the left side and slipped it past the keeper for the first goal of the game.
Then, five minutes later, Rivard intercepted a back-pass to the goalkeeper at the edge of the box and laced it into the back of the net, putting the Paladins up 2-0 with 32:36 remaining in the first half.
North Cobb Christian (4-12-1) settled in and got a few shots on goal, but most of them came from outside the box and didn’t give Joe Meersman much trouble.
In the first half, the Paladins put four of their six shots on goal, while the Eagles shot seven times, putting four on target. And while the shots might have been pretty even, Pinecrest was creating far more dangerous chances.
After taking a 2-0 lead into the half, Pinecrest once again had a strong start to the half. Just under two minutes in, Stuart Jeans displayed some individual brilliance, weaving through multiple defenders before blasting a goal from 30 yards out.
Then with 32:30 left, after having his initial shot saved, Rivard collected his own rebound and tucked it into the net for his third goal of the game.
“When you look at the first 10 minutes of each half, that’s when we did the most damage.” Pinecrest head coach Domenic Martell said. “And we did it because we shut them down on one side of the ball, allowed ourselves to get forward and Ben Rivard had a great game.”
With 17:07 remaining, Nando Holdsworth connected with Rivard on a nice ball over the top, Rivard made a beautiful touch to head it over the last defender then tucked it past the keeper, putting the Paladins up 5-1 while also giving him his fourth goal of the contest.
“[Rivard] finished and capitalized on his chances,” Martell said. “Yeah, he could’ve had a couple more goals but two of the goals were created entirely by him.”
But Rivard was the first to give credit to his teammates.
“I couldn’t have done it without my wingers and the entire team really,” Rivard said. “It’s just about the tenacity and keeping up the fight and just being where your team needs you to be all the time. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes you get lucky.”
Pinecrest will face Paideia (10-3) in the second round.
“Our first goal of the season was to play in May,” Martell said. “Everyday since we started the season we’ve been saying we wanna play in May, and guess what? Our next game is in May. So this game first put us to be able to play in May, and second, every game we’ve played we’ve gotten better and this will get us ready to play next week.”