MOULTRIE – One might as well call it a double no-win situation.
And yet, Colquitt County High boys soccer is still alive in a quest for an unprecedented run in the GHSA postseason.
Down 2-0 at halftime on the two type of goals that aren’t supposed to happen – especially on the home field – the Packers played the kind of loose yet determined soccer coach Jimbo Jarvis said is the 2019 club’s top attribute. So the penalty kick goal and the own goal were completely forgotten with both early and late second-half goals that sent the match into overtime. Fittingly, senior defender George Barber – making a major difference since his return from a season-long injury – put home the overtime goal last Wednesday to send Colquitt County past Etowah High 3-2 and into the ‘Sweet 16’ ending a string of four straight years of first-round losses.
Jarvis is certainly not sorry that the Packers won’t be facing Pebblebrook on the road Thursday, Pebblebrook having been ranked as high as No. 5 in the eurosportscoreboard.com rankings for Class 7A. Pebblebrook lost its first-round encounter with North Paulding, so it’s North Paulding who will be playing at Packer Park at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Jarvis is grateful to be playing somebody after the first-half disasters in the opening round. He attributes some of that whole scenario and how all the drama laid out to the nature of the mini-rivalry that’s developed in soccer between Etowah and Colquitt County in just the past two seasons.
“The first time we played Etowah, we scored late to beat them 1-0. That was a year ago,” said Jarvis. “The next year, this season, we’re in the Freedom Cup again. We went up 2-0, they fought back 3-2. We tied it; they went back up 4-3. We tied it and ended up winning in PKs. This team has confidence against Etowah, so they never gave up. They also knew we were outplaying Etowah in the first half. Giving up two goals like that knowing we were the better team just didn’t settle well with us.
“At halftime I said you put one goal in and you will put the pressure back on them hard. We scored in the first minute-and-a-half and it shifted the pressure instead of them cruising like they were.”
Juan Pascual scored that initial goal with a lot of open space to take a long lead pass. In fact, with both second–half goals for Colquitt, the Packers caught Etowah without many defenders back helping the goalkeeper.
But that Etowah defense, for about the next 37 minutes, was alert and on the ball making Colquitt work for any shot. Even Colquitt’s goalkeeper, Tony Jimenez, made two clutch plays after a Packer yellow card and Etowah free kick just outside the penalty box. That came with 12 minutes to play.
The half gets under the two minute mark and it looks like Etowah is on the side of the Packer goal content to play the ball out of bounds.
“If it’s late in a game, you’re just trying to run the clock out, put the ball in the corner on the opposing team’s end of the field and shield it,” said Jarvis. “Most times the other team is going to kick it out of bounds and you get the ball right back. It’s wasting clock. They played the ball really well for about a minute-and-a-half and looked like they were going to keep doing it.”
Jarvis’ assistant, Eric Wingate, then called for any Packer to step between them and the ball before they do the throw-in.
“As soon as we did that, we were able to play the ball through,” said Jarvis. “It was a quick breakaway, which gave us Jason (Gallardo) turning inside and one-on-one with the goal. In a lot of ways (Etowah) was doing the right thing. But when they took the foot off the gas like that and allowed us to get that quick breakaway … Jason one-on-one with a goalkeeper, my money’s on Jason every day.
“It was a gamble. We do that sometimes too. You have to be proficient at it. If not, it can come back to bite you. If there’s a quick counter, you have less defense to adjust to it.”
For Barber, it was the second time he scored since returning to action. Jarvis said his height plus his leaping ability and accuracy with a shot makes him valuable up close on set pieces like corner kicks.
Gallardo is a freshman forward and one of many Packers who can flat-out fly down the field dribbling the ball or not. Not only is the speed factor one nobody can coach nor substitute for, but it never seems to slow down after 60 to 70 minutes of play.
“We have a phrase around here, ‘Are you tired?’ said Jarvis. “‘No sir, coach, we are not tired.’ They know the answer (otherwise) is we are going to fix it. We believe in conditioning. This late in the season, all they want to do is play. It’s almost impossible to say we’re going to work on drill stuff because they just want to play.
“That speed, that is the difference between this year and last.”
Colquitt County’s last first-round win in boys soccer was in 2014 defeating Westlake. At 16-2 and No. 10 in those state rankings, there are some unknowns for Jarvis and his staff about North Paulding because he can’t get through to anyone from Pebblebrook, who fell in the first round 3-1.
But North Paulding will bring a 14-5 record that includes losses by 5-2 and 2-0 to No. 2 ranked Hillgrove in region play, 1-0 and 2-0 losses to 14-5 Kennesaw Mountain in region play and a 2-0 region win over North Cobb.
“It’s good to get this monkey off our back; now we want to go further,” said Jarvis. “We know what Pebblebrook’s capable of and got. Lowndes played against them and said they were the real deal. For North Paulding to take them down 3-1, it’s very impressive. You have to wonder what was the difference in that game. Was it an own goal or PK like we gave up?”
Another region champion in Colquitt County’s quadrant, South Gwinnett, lost in the opening round to South Forsyth 3-0. South Forsyth plays Meadowcreek in the second round, and if Meadowcreek wins it would host the ‘Elite 8’ round due to the GHSA’s universal coin flip.
Meadowcreek, at home, defeated No. 6-ranked Mill Creek 1-0 to open the playoffs.
In the other half of Colquitt’s side sits both No. 2 Hillgrove and No. 1 Lambert.
“I just like the way were are playing,” said Jarvis, not wanting to look to far ahead but still acknowledging how stout the Hillgrove club is. “We have been consistent with the exception of the Lowndes game. If we play our game, I like our chances. I don’t care who we are on the field with, a No. 1 or No. 4 seed. We are going to take everybody seriously. They are a loose group and play well together.”