WALNUT GROVE, Ga. — On a cold, damp Friday night at The Grove, the No. 5 Eastside Lady Eagles (5-1-1) won a hard-fought Region 8-AAAAA-opening match 2-0 over the Walnut Grove Lady Warriors (3-3-0).
From the opening kickoff, the Lady Eagles distributed and moved the ball around the field as they have all year.
Although Eastside controlled possession in the first half of play, Walnut Grove responded with outstanding defensive play. The Lady Eagles were finally able to break the scoreless tie when Bailey Love threw the ball in to Aralyn Everett. Everett was able to duck under the ball and pop it up in the air where a Lady Warrior defender headed it up and backward. Everett one-touched the ball to herself around the defender and then fired a shot from the deep right into the Walnut Grove net to give Eastside a 1-0 lead with 11:31 left to play in the first half.
Within the first minute of the second half, Everett used her breakaway speed to control a long-flighted ball. She attempted a cross to two charging teammates that deflected off a Lady Warrior and went in for an own goal that put Eastside up 2-0.
The Walnut Grove offense created more opportunities than they had in the first half, but Lady Eagle defenders and net-minder Anna Shelton rose to the occasion to make the saves needed to record Shelton's fourth clean sheet in seven matches. Shelton came off her line to block a shot just outside the six-yard box by Lady Warrior Olivia Wolff with 23:41 left to play on what would be Walnut Grove's best chance of the game.
Lady Warriors goalkeeper Molly Mitchell was outstanding the entire match for Walnut Grove. Mitchell had double-digit saves and even had help from the crossbar a couple of times to keep the game close. Outstanding moments included a shot from just inside the 18-yard box by Eastside's Sophia Leal that hit off the Walnut Grove crossbar down into the path of Bailey Love whose shot from close range was saved by Mitchell with 20:41 left to play. Another was when Lady Eagle Lauren Gates stole the ball from a Lady Warrior and proceeded to dribble 50 yards around and thru defenders eventually firing a shot that was partially blocked by Mitchell and would have gone into the Walnut Grove net if not for a sliding clearance by a Lady Warrior defender with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The No. 10 Eastside Eagles (5-1-1) matched the Lady Eagles by topping the Walnut Grove Warriors (0-5-0) by a 7-0 score.
Caden Coggins scored in the fifth minute of play off an assist from Tanner Beam to put Eastside up 1-0. Coggins' goal would prove to be the game-winner. In the 19th minute of play, Coggins assisted Demba Fofana to make it 2-0. Fofana added another goal in the 28th minute of play to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead at the half.
Mirroring the Lady Eagles, Eastside scored a goal in the opening seconds of the second stanza when Fofana assisted Ethan Manley to stretch the Eagles lead to 4-0. Liam McGiboney scored off a Beam corner kick soon after to make it 5-0. Beam would assist Coggins on a goal in the 53rd minute making it 6-0. Within three minutes, Coggins returned the favor on a throw-in directly to Beam who netted the final goal of the night.
Next up for the Eastside squads are Region 8-AAAAA home games against Greenbrier on Tuesday and Clarke Central on Friday. On both nights the Lady Eagles are scheduled to begin at 5:30 pm with the Eagles following at 7:30 pm.
Cale Coggins contributed to this report.