SUWANEE — Both Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill looked to utilize speed in their Region 6-AAAAAAA boys soccer opener, though it was the former’s sharpshooter James Williams who proved to be quickest on the draw.
The senior forward scored two goals in the blink of an eye in the first two and a half minutes of the second half, which proved decisive as the Lions upset the No. 4 state-ranked Eagles 2-0 Tuesday night at Collins Hill Community Stadium.
Goalkeeper Paarth Desai also came up huge with 10 saves to help Peachtree Ridge (6-3-1, 1-0) get off to a big start in region play.
And both efforts were necessary as Collins Hill (8-1, 0-1) had numerous scoring opportunities throughout the evening.
“James and Paarth kept us in that game, for sure,” Peachtree Ridge coach Ryan Sutton said. “James got us the lead, and Paarth secured it. We battle with Collins Hill year in and year out. We know how good of a team they are. They’re always well coached, well prepared.
“They had a good game plan. They were putting our back row under a lot of pressure, and we talked at halftime to really just deal with it, what their game plan is, which is just send the ball into the corners and try to put our defenders under pressure. Our back line dealt with it well, and Paarth was quick off his line.”
Desai and the Peachtree Ridge defense dealt with it well enough to keep the game scoreless at halftime despite a couple of quality scoring opportunities from Collins Hill, most notably on a pair of settled headers by Sebastian LaCava to set up shots by Nick Hubbard in the 17th minute and Jordy Peralta in the final minutes of the opening frame.
And just after the second half got underway, lightning struck twice for the Lions in the form of Williams.
First, the senior corralled a turnover on the left wing, dribbled into the penalty area and slipped a diagonal shot across the goal box and inside the back post to put Peachtree Ridge up 1-0 just 14 seconds after the second-half kickoff.
Just over two minutes later, Williams was at it again, this time running down a long lead pass from Albert Jang, beating his defender for another breakaway and finding the back of the net from the top of the 23-yard arc to extend the Lions’ lead to 2-0 with 37:38 to play.
“The first one, (the Collins Hill defense) just kept backing off,” said Williams, who now has 17 goals on the season. “So I said, ‘All right, if you’re going to give me space, I’m just going to take my shot.’ The second goal … was all momentum.”
But after that initial momentum boost, Collins Hill kept trying to fight its way back into the game.
Hubbard had a prime scoring chance from the top of the penalty area box, only to see Desai punch that shot over the crossbar for a corner kick in the game’s 49th minute.
A pair of free kicks into the penalty area in the 55th and 65th minutes proved dangerous, with the second one becoming even more dangerous when a player was taken down inside the penalty area, drawing a whistle that set up a penalty kick from Hubbard with a chance for the Eagles to cut the deficit in half with 13:27 left.
But Desai dove to his left to make the save to keep the Lions’ two-goal lead intact.
“We had a game plan just in case we were going to penalties,” Desai said. “We did our research from the past few years. My coaches did a great job with that and kind of told me where my best chance was with which way I go. Knowing that going into the game, I trust my game plan. I dove hard that way, and thank God, it wound up being the right way.”
Collins Hill still had chances to get on board late, most notably a bouncing shot inside the penalty area by Peralta with just over two minutes to play, but that chance went wide, and Peachtree Ridge was able to hold on for the win.