Heritage girls' soccer wrapped up the regular season with a 4-2 win over Loganville to secure the Region 8-AAAAA championship Tuesday behind Faith Shelton's four-goal game.
With a chance to earn a top seed in next week's state playoff's, the Lady Patriots came from behind twice and took the lead for good on Shelton's third goal with 25:48 to play in the second half. Shelton added her fourth goal with 3:07 remaining to ice it and Heritage will host Tucker next Tuesday at Charles Evans Memorial Stadium in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
The boys also finished the regular season on a high note, defeating the Red Devils 5-2 in the nightcap. The Patriots will travel to North Atlanta as the No. 3 seed to start their quest at a state title next week. The teams will square of either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Girls: Heritage 4, Loganville 2
On senior night, the evening belonged to a sophomore. Shelton's four goals propelled the Lady Patriots to a perfect region record and assures them of at least two home games in the opening rounds of the playoffs. But it didn't come without a bit of drama.
Loganville scored first with 18:08 left in the half before Shelton scored the equalizer with 15:46 left until intermission. Then, the Lady Red Devils took the lead again with 29:48 left in the game, setting the stage for Shelton to again tie the game with her second goal.
Over the final 25 minutes, the two teams traded shots as the match took on a frenetic pace. Mady Carter made two key saves over the final 15 minutes to thwart any thoughts of a Loganville comeback.
“It ended up being a track meet going back and forth both ways and that's not really the style we like to play,” Heritage girls' coach Chad Suddeth said. “The girls did what needed to be done. I'm so proud of them. This group of seniors just kept us pointed in the right direction.”
Each time the Loganville scored, Heritage had an answer. The Lady Patriots finally seized control in the second half. Shelton and company pressured the Lady Red Devils inside 35 yards for much of the final 20 minutes and it paid off. Despite several late shots on the other end, Heritage managed to control the tempo down the stretch to secure the win.
“We finally put the nail in the coffin there at the end,” Suddeth said. “Maybe we hit the snooze button early on and they woke us up with the alarm. That's not the way we draw it up but it all worked out in the end. The girls kept fighting and when we get Faith in there with some space, she's dangerous.”
Having wrapped up a No. 1 seed, Heritage will set after that elusive state title which they haven't won since 1990. The school has two state championships in girls soccer in its history.
“All of this work and earning the No. 1 seed is going to pay dividends,” Suddeth said. “We get to play at home and have a better draw and those are both good things. Hopefully we'll reap the benefits of the hard work. This was our first goal and we reached that. Now we have the next journey ahead of us.”
Boys: Heritage 5, Loganville 2
Four players found the net for Heritage's boys in the second game as the Patriots jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back.
“Looking at the results and our progress throughout the year, I thought we would be able to press from the onset of the match,” Heritage boys' coach Brandon Stewart said. “I knew if we were able to get a couple of goals early we'd be able to take the game by the scruff of the neck and for the most part I think we did that.”
Led by two goals from senior captain Austin Kulp, Heritage controlled possession throughout the game and had several opportunities to blow the it wide open. Still, five goals was enough to propel the Patriots into next week's playoffs with positive momentum.
“I think if we get a couple of those goals early, I don't think the game is close as it was,” Stewart said. “We have to take care of those things. In the playoffs we may only get five opportunities and we have to capitalize on two of those or so. Tonight we had several more opportunities but in the playoffs, it's going to very tight.”
Luis Avila opened the scoring for the Patriots with 33:33 left in the first half off an assist from Edel Ramos. Then with 20:09 to go until halftime, Kulp scored his first goal to put Heritage up 2-0. After a Loganville goal off a penalty kick and header made it 2-1 at the break, Heritage scored quickly when play resumed thanks to Adam North who found the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Johnathan Mendez scored with 27:20 to put the Patriots up 4-1 before Loganville scored its second and final goal minutes later. Kulp added a second goal on a penalty kick inside the box with 2:11 left to play.
Heritage earned the No. 3 seed with the win and will open the Class AAAAA playoffs on the road at North Atlanta.
“We've scouted our opponent a couple of times so far and feel pretty good about ourselves right now,” Stewart said. “We kind of know what we're in for. We have a full week to prepare. We need to get better at our decision making in the final third of games and that's what we'll work on and try to give them a little upset.”