The West Hall Spartans pulled away in the second half of a tightly contested GHSA Class AAA boys soccer title game Saturday to beat Calhoun 3-1.
West Hall’s championship was the first in school history for any team sport.
“It’s difficult to describe (the excitement),” West Hall head coach Tim Gale said. “I’m so happy for the boys. They’ve been playing good soccer for a long time. We’re senior-laden, and they all stepped up and played hard. I just couldn’t be happier for them or the school.”
West Hall broke on top eight minutes in on a volleyed shot from the doorstep by Steve Rodriguez. The midfielder’s run to the front of the goal mouth was perfectly timed for the left-footed cross of Ramsis Martinez.
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The Spartans staved off several threatening Yellow Jackets attacks to take the lead into the half, but Calhoun found its equalizer just moments after the two teams emerged from the locker room.
Luis Vasquez’ free kick was expertly weighted into the penalty area and on to the waiting head of Darwin Lom, who put the chance away to tie the score.
West Hall took the lead back for good 10 minutes later on a cross from Sammy Coto to Isaac Castruita. The junior buried the easy chance into the net to kill any Calhoun momentum.
The Spartans continued to look dangerous in a quest for breathing room until Castruita was ruled to have been taken down in the box by Calhoun’s James Doane with nine minutes to go. Coto volunteered to take the ensuing penalty kick, and his shot low into the net was true to seal the championship.
“I was just confident, and I know my team trusted me,” Coto said. “As soon as the PK happened, I called it. I just felt it. I felt it was my time, and it went in.”
Calhoun appeared to be laboring in the heat of a sweltering day at Mercer’s Five Star Stadium even before Coto’s clinching goal.
“I think our attrition war paid off,” Gale said. “We subbed a lot. I actually think in this game, with this heat, on a field with a width we don’t usually play on, that we started to take control in the second half even after their goal.”
West Hall outscored its playoff opponents 18-2 in the postseason.