It came down to a penalty kick in the second half, but the Highlanders of First Presbyterian Christian Academy eked out a 1-0 victory over Community Christian in the state semi-finals, sending them to the championship game tomorrow in Macon.
It is the first time in the short soccer program’s history the Highlanders have made a state playoff game.
Coach Tom Sukaratana said it was an exciting game.
"It was 0-0 at the half," he said. "Both teams fought hard."The coach said the Highlanders were awarded a penalty kick early in the second half, and Dario Brown set up the ball and made the kick. The ball went to the goalkeeper, who batted it down and away from the goal. However, Brown rushed the net and kicked the ball in for a goal on the rebound.
Afterward, the coach said his defense kept the opponent from scoring.
"We controlled 60 percent of the first half," Sukaratana said. "We had 12 shots on goal, but couldn’t get them in. They had about six to seven shots. Our defense was strong. AJ Ansley, Mike Farrior, Dario Brown and Mike Brown all did an excellent job on defense. I think we have the best defense in the league. We have height and speed and we can attack from the back and penetrate. We had three eighth-graders who played well in Clark Sukaratana, Tyler Causer and Stanford Graham. Graham made a save on a goal kick."
The coach said Oak Mountain Academy made the finals by beating out Monsignor Donovan 4-1 in a semi-final game.
The finals are at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Stratford Academy in Macon. Oak Mountain finished first in the west for Class AA and the Highlanders are first in the east.
"It’s going to be a good one," the coach said. "They have a good offense, but I think we have a stronger defense. Right now, Dario (Brown) is hurting a little for pulling his hamstring in the semi-final game, so I’m a bit concerned. But I have to say last year we played Oak Mountain and beat them in the first round."
The coach said he thinks he has more depth, which could be to the Highlanders’ advantage. He said the defense will strive to contain the opponent’s two lead scorers.
"I’m very proud of the guys," Sukaratana said. "We have nine seniors and it means a lot for them to be able to win state. We have a young team and next year we will be able to compete again. Hakeem Golden played excellent mid-field. Mike Brown and Farrior played great, Martin Causer played good up front. We played very physical. But I hope they saved their best game for last."