Pinecrest's boys soccer team's season came to a decisive conclusion Saturday in a 5-1 loss on the road against the Atlanta International School, ending the Paladins' breakthrough season and run into the Class A state playoffs.
After a scoreless first half that was played at an overall steady pace by both clubs, Pinecrest's Logan Hamilton opened the scoring in the 43rd minute when he found the back of the net off a free kick from the top of the box. But the Eagles of AIS responded with a flurry of attacks, and its key scorer, Tomas Perez, scored four second-half goals to put the contest far out of reach.
“(Perez) was their target on offense, and that's what we had been working on going into the game, but he's such a great player,” Pinecrest head coach Chris Kane said. “And then after his second goal we just sort of got caught like a deer in headlights. That's what happens. You can't give him space inside the box, but for some reason our defenders started to back off and they made us pay, and that's what great teams do.”
Kane felt like his team's first goal woke up the opponent. He knew that scenario would be a possibility as well.
“Yeah they turned it on,” Kane said. “I knew because I was here the other night when they played Walker and the same thing happened. Walker scored and they came right back within a minute and scored. We talked about how if we went up, we had to answer their intensity by raising ours.”
Despite the result in the quarterfinals, the Paladins' (10-4) won their first two playoff games against Whitefield and Hebron Christian Academy by a combined score of 7-0, and overall had their best season since joining the GHSA ranks in 2009.
“We should keep our heads up, you know,” Kane said. “This is the farthest we've gotten and the farthest any time has gone at Pinecrest, so that's something to be proud of. We came up against a great team. AIS is a great team who, I'll be surprised if they don't win the whole thing. We fought, and I think we got a little intimidated there (in the second half), but those things happen and we had some young kids out there.”
AIS will advance to play Pacelli in the semifinals.
Pinecrest goalkeeper Luke del Balzo had six saves in the loss, but couldn't overcome the 21 shot attempts from the Eagles—most coming in the second half. AIS's Logan Paradies scored the equalizing goal off a double-header off a corner kick, and also had many impressive shot attempts that missed just high.
Pinecrest finished 1 for 9 shooting and had two corner kicks.