SUWANEE — West Forsyth saw first-hand why No. 7-ranked Collins Hill has won three state titles in the last four years.
The top-seed and defending champion Eagles tallied four goals from four different players in the first half to knock off the No. 4-seed Wolverines 4-1 in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs on Wednesday at Collins Hill.
"I think more than anything we were a little slow starting," West head coach Jason Bayush said. "Some of the kids were young and they’ve never been here before, so they were a little shell-shocked.
"Playing a team with a reputation has a lot to do with it, I think. The second half showed we could play with anyone. We shut them down and won the second half 1-0."
The first half was all Collins Hill (14-5), whose defense didn’t allow West (10-8) a single shot on goal, while the offense tallied 11.
Eli Carrasco crossed the ball to Alan Maslo for a header in the ninth minute past keeper Bryce Billington for the game’s first goal. Four minutes later, Juan Ruiz crossed the ball to Paul Ille for a running header to make the score 2-0.
Juan Restrepo kept the pressure on West with a perfectly placed pass into the middle of the box to Carrasco, who fired a shot into the top right corner of the goal in the 27th minute. Andrew Olortegui capped the scoring with a header on a corner kick from Zach Lane to give Collins Hill a 4-0 lead with 4:45 left in the first half.
"It’s always important at this level and in the playoffs to get off to a fast start because the longer [the game] lingers on, you never know what could happen." Collins Hill head coach Mike Burrell said. "We came out with a lot of intensity. We wanted to try and to put it away in the first half, and they did.
"We’ve got some pretty dynamic players that really know how to play well with each other. We were just on. It’s the first time we’ve been on like that in the first half in a while."
A Collins Hill defender was called for a handball in the box with 2:45 left in regulation that drew a penalty kick. West’s John Newman took the shot and placed it to the left of the keeper into the back of the net.
"Every time you get to play a top-level opponent, it will help you and you will grow as a team," Bayush said. "You learn what you can and can’t do, you learn the physical game with a bigger, stronger team. And now you have goals. You know what to work for next season, so I think it’s a positive learning experience."