CONYERS —South Forsyth’s boys are making a habit of starting improbable playoff runs.
After 90 minutes of scoreless soccer Tuesday night, the War Eagles won a sudden-death penalty kick shootout 6-5 against Heritage and earned a 1-0 win in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
The victory was the third straight for the War Eagles (11-6-2), who haven’t lost since March 29. Heritage (12-4), the top seed from Region 8-AAAA, came into the night having earned a win or a tie in its last 13 games.
It’s the second year in a row that South has entered the postseason as the No. 4 seed from Region 7-AAAA and upset a No. 1 seed in the first round.
“We were playing really good towards the end of the season, and that’s when it counts,” South coach Tom Braun said.
“It was an even game ... and we came out with the win. We go into every game feeling like we can win no matter who our opponent is.”
Earlier in the night, South’s girls suffered a season-ending 2-1 loss against Heritage.
Heritage’s boys controlled the ball early on, getting five shots on goal compared to the War Eagles’ three in the first half.
However, in the final portions of the first half Heritage found itself with two yellow cards. Mauricio Reyes picked up the first one with 6:37 to go until halftime, followed by another on Chris Raines.
The War Eagles picked up a yellow of their own with 1:46 to play until halftime, before both teams regrouped in the second half.
The shots were slightly more even in the second half, 4-3, but Heritage had clearer chances.
None would find the back of the net, though, including two quality strikes from the left side by sophomore Austin Kulp. Reyes had a one-on-one opportunity early in the second half but Bjorn Kammholz, South Forsyth’s goalkeeper, came up with a strong save to keep the scoreboard blank.
The game remained 0-0 through regulation and two five-minute overtime periods, forcing a penalty kick shootout.
Heritage shot first, but Harrison Kulp’s attempt was blocked by Kammholz. The sophomore came up with three penalty kick blocks, proving the difference.
Heritage goalkeeper Marcos Mendez was solid in the net as well, and came up with two big saves in the first five penalty shots for South Forsyth.
The shootout was tied 5-5, before the War Eagles finally found a way to put the deciding shot past him Mendez. Heritage’s Ramon Rodriguez missed his shot in sudden death, and South senior Andre Williams put the match away with a successful kick on the next turn.
If the War Eagles are to advance beyond next week’s second round matchup, it will require a win in Brunswick against Glynn Academy — the team that eliminated them in the 2011 playoffs.
“Our kids are excited about going back,” Braun said. “I think we’ll be highly motivated.”
Heritage (girls) 2, South Forsyth 1
Despite being out-shot 19-5 in the game, Heritage scored two goals in the final 20 minutes to defeat South Forsyth 2-1 on Tuesday in Conyers, ending the Lady War Eagles’ season.
No. 3 seed South (11-5-2) went up 1-0 in the first half on Rachel Shah’s goal but couldn’t hold on for the upset over the Region 8-AAAA No. 2 seed Lady Patriots (15-3-1).
“We had the better of the play all night but missed plenty of scoring opportunities,” Braun said.
“It just wasn’t our night. We played a good game, just [had] a bad result.”
Shortly after she was moved from defender to midfielder, Heritage’s Arille Gunderson dribbled the ball over the midfield line and into South territory. Getting within 25 yards of the War Eagles’ net, Gunderson was fouled, setting up a free kick.
Senior Cate Reach stepped up to take the kick and, with 19:28 to play, put a ball just over the outstretched fingers of South keeper Hannah Goudy to tie it at 1-1.
Shortly afterward, the Lady Patriots again had the ball in War Eagles’ territory in the closing minutes, after South knocked the ball out of bounds.
Heritage coach Chad Suddeth saw an opportunity and called Lena Killingsworth up from the back as Kourtney Kelley went to the sideline for the throw-in.
Hodges received the ball off Kelley’s throw and turned toward the net from about 15 yards out. The Clayton State signee then blasted one past Goudy to put Heritage up 2-1 with 6:54 remaining.
“I knew Kourtney Kelley could throw it a country mile, and I figured we were going to get a flip ball into the mouth of the goal, [so] I pulled up Lena to get some height up there,” Suddeth said.
The Lady Patriots and goalkeeper Mady Carter held on the rest of the way to reach the second round for the second straight year.
“We just stayed patient and didn’t push the panic button,” Suddeth said. “We were outplayed in the first half, but not on the scoreboard.”