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Heritage goes unbeaten
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By defeating Cedar Shoals 5-2 on Tuesday, the Heritage boys' soccer team finished its Region 8-AAAA season undefeated and won its first region title since 2003.

It was the first region title for coach Brandon Stewart, who is in his fourth year with the Patriots.

"It's special," Stewart said. "The kids have worked really hard."

Stewart feels this year's team has worked harder than in the past due to last year's graduation of star player Tyler Peeples.

The Patriots began the year with two straight losses before tying Parkview, beating Rockdale and falling to Whitewater in the month of February. That can be considered the first phase of Heritage's historic season, getting the team together.

The second phase was winning the region, something Heritage began to accomplish in a 4-3 win against Clarke Central on March 2.

From there the Patriots defeated Madison County 2-1 on March 8 and faced the region's toughest competition, Habersham Central on March 10. The Patriots picked up a 3-1 win, knocking off the eight-time Region 8-AAAA champions.

"Getting over that huge hump, they had it in their brains that we could win the whole thing," Stewart said. "When you knock off the big dog, you knock off the region champion, you want to assume the throne. They've done that and they've focused on every region game and it's paid off."

After a tie in non-region play, the Patriots have since won six straight before traveling to Eastside Friday night, in a match that ended after press time.

The Patriots have been led by Mauricio Reyes with 13 goals and eight assists. Gustavo Martinez has tallied 10 assists and the rest of the team has spread out the scoring.

Heritage has scored 34 goals, while giving up just 21 on the year.

Friday's game against Eastside, began the third phase of Heritage's season, preparing for the playoffs.

"We're in the middle right now of starting a new season on May 1," Stewart said. "We're working hard in training and that means going out and taking care of business."

With the region championship, the Patriots have also claimed the top seed in the state playoffs, which begin May 1 at Heritage against the fourth-seeded team from Region 7-AAAA. But together, Heritage not only had to overcome a 1-3-1 start, but also keep their focus during a stretch of 10 wins and one tie.

"They could have very easily gone through the motion after we kind of got on a roll but it seemed to fuel their hunger for more wins," Stewart said.

Even Tuesday, when a home match for the playoffs was locked up, the Patriots pushed toward perfection.

"They didn't want to go 9-1," Stewart said. "They wanted an undefeated region season."

Stewart said Heritage was able to pull off such a victorious season due to their perseverance on and off the pitch.

"We have code at Heritage that we're going to take care of all three facets," Stewart said. On the field, soccer stuff, in the classroom soccer stuff and in the hallways, everything else."