GRAY -- Houston County struggled to find its rhythm for long stretches Thursday night, but the Bears managed to come from behind and hold on late for a 3-2 victory over Jones County in the GHSA Region 2-AAAAA boys soccer finale for both teams.
The win secured an unbeaten regular season for the Bears (13-0-1, 6-0), who are ranked No. 2 in GHSA Class AAAAA.
“It was a lot more exciting than we were hoping for, but (Jones County) played very passionately and they outhustled us the entire game,” Houston County head coach Jason Kirk said. “I give a lot of credit to those guys. They were excited to play us, and they definitely showed it.”
After Houston County came away empty on two early chances, the Greyhounds (10-3-1, 3-3) made their first one count. Senior forward Adam Sole chased down a long pass and cut across on his right foot for an excellent goal and a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest.
The Bears answered back eight minutes later on a Jonathan Scruggs penalty kick after Steven Moore was fouled in the box.
Houston County took the lead 1:35 from halftime on a well-executed set piece. Sophomore Hunter Henry’s corner found an early run from senior Sean Palmer, who calmly the headed the ball into the net.
“That was fantastic,” Kirk said. “Their goalkeeper was set up back post, and the near post was wide open. That’s just an execution thing.”
The Bears came out in the second more determined after being challenged by their head coach at the half. They held the ball for long stretches and managed to increase the tempo of the game.
Moore cashed in with 23 minutes remaining, following his own rebound and scoring with his left foot after a quick throw-in.
Sole pulled one back for the Greyhounds minutes later on a curling free kick. The chance was set up after Houston County keeper Declan Furlough was ruled to have handled the ball just outside of the box.
The two teams battled back-and-forth in the game’s waning moments, with Jones County having one final opportunity to draw even. Bears defender Tim Freeman’s slip gave the Greyhounds a free kick, but the loose ball was gathered in the area by Furlough to seal the victory.
Houston County also won the girls contest, claiming an 8-1 win.