FORSYTH -- Mary Persons had a plan to slow down and contain one of the top teams in the GHSA Class AAAA soccer playoffs Wednesday. And for the most part, it worked. Visting Northwest Whitfield, however, did enough to escape with a 1-0 victory in the second round.
“We were in this game. A lot of people in the state probably didn’t think we’d be in this game,” Mary Persons head coach Allen Luton said. “They just beat Buford, what 5-0? I had no doubts that my guys would show up, and that it would be a tight game. An inch or two here just didn’t go our way.”
The Bulldogs, who had chances to take an early lead in the match’s first 20 minutes, ended up paying for not being able to get on the board. The Bruins’ Bryan Villa pushed a shot in from outside the right side of the box four minutes into the second half for the game’s lone score. It ended up being enough to secure the win to move Northwest Whitfield on to the quarterfinals against either St. Pius X or Spalding.
Mary Persons (20-6) nearly turned the tables in its favor, especially early on. In the 12th minute, the Bulldogs had what appeared to be an ideal set up for an angled goal, only to have the shot miss. Mere inches kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard six minutes later. A pass placed to Ryan Shepard on the left side was fired toward to net and was on its way in, only to have the ball bounce off the crossbar to prevent a score.
“Any time you are playing in the playoffs, you have to convert your scoring opportunities,” Luton said. “An inch or two here or there, instead of hitting the crossbar, the ball is in the back of the net.”
Trailing 1-0 early in the second half, Mary Persons still had its chances. Two corner kicks 16 minutes into the half were cleared out by Bruins defenders, with a pair of corner kicks in the 36th minute having a similar result.
The Bulldogs had one last ditch attempt in the final minute, placing the ball toward the center of the box in front of the goal off a free kick, but a Grant Necastro header bounced to the right of Northwest Whitfield goalie Vicente Vaca.