COVINGTON, Ga. — Although the match had absolutely no postseason implications, big time area bragging rights were on the line as Eastside hosted Class AAAAAA No. 7 Heritage Tuesday night at Sharp Stadium. And once again, the Lady Patriots came out on top, scoring a 4-1 win to stay unbeaten all time against Eastside.
The Lady Eagles were 8-1-1 and had played three state ranked teams coming into their Tuesday match with the Heritage Lady Patriots.
Eastside had posted a 1-1-1 record in games against currently ranked opponents - a 2-0 win over AAAAA #10 Whitewater, a 1-1 draw with Class AAA No. 5 Dawson County and a 3-0 loss to Class AAAA No. 8 Woodward Academy. They can also claim a 3-2 preseason win over Class A No. 5 Athens Academy.
Despite their impressive resume, the Lady Eagles remained unranked coming into their match with Class AAAAAA No. 7 Heritage (9-2).
It took only 36 seconds for the Lady Patriots to open the scoring when Gracie Wilson bent a corner kick thru the arms of leaping Eastside goalie Anna Shelton to put Heritage up 1-0. The Lady Patriots controlled the match until about the halfway point when momentum switched to Eastside.
Eastside’s Aralyn Everett just missed on two breakaway opportunities in a four-minute span, the first sailing wide left past the charging Heritage goalkeeper with 10:52 on the clock and the second rolling just to the right of the goal soon after.
Heritage keeper Cameron Risk did not make a save until 3:02 remained when she rejected a shot from close range by Mya Cummings. In contrast, Eastside's Shelton recorded 8 of her 13 saves in the first half.
The second half saw the Lady Eagles turn the tables when they scored the equalizer only one minute into the half. Bailey Love sent a corner kick in that Katie Oakley headed into the back of the Heritage net to make it 1-1.
Play turned more and more physical as the game went on with several periods of stoppage for fouls and injuries. Heritage took the lead back with 24:31 left to play when Sanai Moe tapped in a shot from Morgan Baker that was originally deflected by Shelton.
Just over one minute later the Lady Patriots netted another goal when Wilson sent in a corner kick that Jazmin Ferguson headed into the Eastside goal to make it 3-1 Heritage. In the next 15 minutes, Shelton made three outstanding defensive plays coming off her line to block shots and collect the ball, the third time stealing the ball off the foot of a Lady Patriot.
With 2:53 left in the match Heritage's Emily Lamontagne passed the ball to her right to Lily Broersma who sent a shot up and over Shelton to make it 4-1. Heritage's Risk made back-to-back point-blank saves of Everett shots in the final minute of play.
The 4-1 effort is the closest an Eastside Lady Eagle team has ever come to winning against a Heritage squad in the all-time series. After the match, Eastside head coach Joel Singleton said his squad failed to match up with Heritage in several key areas.
"We played a very good team today,” he said. “Our intensity and ‘want’ just didn't match theirs. I thought we managed possession balance midway through the first half and 15 minutes of the second. We had a few play stoppages in the second and Heritage capitalized right after two of them and 3-1 was hard to come back from."
Despite Eastside fielding arguably one of its best teams in program history, and despite the closely contest nature of the game, Singleton himself will acknowledge that the area’s top program still resides in Conyers.
"Heritage is still the program to beat in this area,” he said. “We've got to use it to get better. It's a good playoff-type match for us moving forward."