COVINGTON, Ga. — For coach Brian Johnson, this one will probably be forever dubbed as the one that got away.
The Alcovy Tigers boys soccer team came into Thursday night’s Region 3-AAAAAA game with Evans looking to extend its winning streak to three games while keeping postseason hopes alive, but fell just short as it suffered a tough 3-1 loss in penalty kicks to the Evans in a game that was mostly dominated by the Tigers.
The Knights were perfect with their opportunities at the penalty spot, while the Tigers had two of their kicks blocked and one sail wide to the left of the goal. This final 3-1 tally does not truly show how dominant the Tigers were throughout the course of the game, however.
The Tigers consistently maintained possession in the opposition’s half of the field for the majority of the game, as sophomore Alex Velasquez scored the first goal of the game during the first two minutes of the first half to put Alcovy up 1-0. But the Tigers still allowed two simple mental lapses by the goalkeeper and the defensive back line to ultimately bring the game level in the second half.
In the second half, Alcovy made run after run with players like seniors Jose Ramos and Chris Rukundo and sophomores Chris Martin and Velasquez. Shot after shot would either just miss the target or be saved by the Knights’ keeper.
In a game that was mostly dominated by the Tigers from a possession standpoint, it was a tough loss to suffer, especially with the implications that were on the line.
Thursday night’s loss effectively ended the Tigers (5-8, 2-8 in Region 3-AAAAAA) chances at making a run in the playoffs, as they numerically cannot catch Evans or Grovetown for the last playoff spot.
Despite that, Johnson still expressed his pride in the progress his program has made this season, remarking that Alcovy is much better than its win total may suggest.
“Our record does not do us justice for the quality of team that we’ve got this year,” said Johnson. “They’re playing hard. It breaks my heart that they cannot make playoffs this year because they’ve been fighting for it all season and they deserve it.”
Particularly after beating Heritage and Greenbriar in back-to-back games, conventional wisdom said the Tigers stood a good chance of knocking off Evans and securing that all-important fourth place spot in the region.
“We were late to bloom this season,” Johnson said. “It took us about half the season to pick up steam and gel together as a team. We beat number one in the region, Greenbrier last week and Heritage for the first time in school history. I’ve been contacted by Brandon Stewart at Heritage about ‘Man, great game beating us’ and, ‘how in the world did you beat number one in the region?’”
Moving forward after a tough loss like this is always one of the harder things to do in sports, but that’s exactly what they are going to do according to Johnson. After spring break, Alcovy will look to finish strong with non-region matches against Locust Grove (April 9), Salem (April 12), Newton (April 16) and Strong Rock Christian (April 18).
“We’ll keep working, and next year we’ll come back and fight harder,” said Johnson. “Each year, we’re getting stronger. Each year, we’re improving. As these guys play more and more often together we’ll build.”