High School Sports

First-half hole too much for Houston County to overcome

Houston County goalkeeper Declan Furlough goes high but can’t stop Centennial's first goal. By the end of the half, the Bears trailed 3-1.
Houston County goalkeeper Declan Furlough goes high but can’t stop Centennial's first goal. By the end of the half, the Bears trailed 3-1. bcabell@macon.com

Houston County’s postseason path was detoured by Centennial on Wednesday night at Freedom Field, as multiple goals in the final nine minutes of the first half put the Bears in a hole that ended up being too much to overcome in a 7-3 loss.

Houston County trailed 3-1 at halftime and cut the deficit back to two goals twice in the second half, but the disadvantage was too much for the Bears to rally back from as the Knights got seven goals from five different players.

Houston County and goalkeeper Declan Furlough buckled down in the second half to slow down the Centennial offensive onslaught, but the Bears could not mount enough of an offensive counter as their season ended with a record of 15-4. The Knights (14-4-1) advance to play at Gainesville in the GHSA Class 6A quarterfinals.

Heath Henry scored a pair of goals for the Bears, with Hunter Henry having one.

Houston County wraps up its season with all of its losses being to non-region opponents, three from the Atlanta area.

Four who mattered

Kevin Velasquez: After a scoreless deadlock for the match’s first 20 minutes, he got the visiting Knights on the board, blasting a shot from the left side to beat Furlough with just under 17 minutes left in the first half.

Heath Henry: His steady work near the Centennial net paid off to tie the game in the first half and give the Bears some life and also kept the Bears energized with his second goal of the match in the second half. His first-half goal came after taking a pass from the wing via Hunter Henry. He was in prime position to score but was taken down by Centennial goalie Jacob Samnik. The play resulted in a yellow card issued to Samnik, with backup goalie Eduin Garcia defending Heath Henry’s penalty kick which easily made it in to tie the game. Heath Henry also pulled the Bears closer to contention on the second half with his hard shot from the left side that Samnik could not stop for a 4-2 Knights lead at the time.

Hunter Henry: Roles were reversed on Houston County’s third goal, this time with Hunter Henry getting the goal on an assist from Heath Henry.

Osvaldo Cabrales: The Knights took control in the final minutes of the first half starting with Cabrales, who got separation on the left side for a 2-1 lead with 2:52 to go until halftime.

Don Deedson Vixamar: He played a significant role in Centennial pulling away, netting three goals. He scored once within the final 90 seconds of the first half and again within the first two minutes of the second half. The result was a 4-1 Knights lead. His first goal came as his on-point shot from the middle was knocked down by Furlough, but Vixamar got his own rebound for the goal. Then, with less than 17 minutes left and Houston County within two goals, his third goal of the night extended the Knights advantage back to three at 5-2.

Observations

Close quarters: Centennial gave the Bears little breathing room all match long, and the plan to minimize separation worked as the Knights also disrupted the offensive sets of the Bears for the most part.

Limited on the edge: Hopes of the Bears getting much offensive traction were dampened Wednesday with the Knights defenders and midfielders all but controlling play on the outside, forcing many of Houston County’s scoring chances more toward the middle of the field.

They said it

Houston County head coach Stephen Edwards on the loss: “Centennial’s a real good team. Sometimes you come out on the right side and sometimes you come out on the wrong side. We had some opportunities (Wednesday) that we should have converted. At the same time, they converted almost every single opportunity that they had. I’m proud of my boys. They played hard all year long. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Edwards on how the Knights limited what the Bears wanted to do offensively: “We tried to work the space to the outside, and it just didn’t happen. They closed those gaps and closed those holes quickly. We were forced to move more toward a localized attack, and they were strong defensively all the way around. There’s no excuses, they were the better team.”

Edwards on Houston County’s senior class comprised of 12 players: “They’re going to be successful, no matter what. To most of these kids, soccer is an afterthought. They’re great at it, but we have kids going to UVA, Notre Dame and Mercer ... we’re lucky to have them.”

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