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Hinesville Gator U12 Green brings gold home again
Gators U12 Green team includes, in back, coach Tom Sukaratana, Stanford Graham, Tyler Causer, Matthew Fussell, Asyria Daniels, Ricky Gilliard, Brooke Standard, coach Kathleen Valentine; in front, Tyler Buckley, DeShawn Jackson, Clark Sukaratana, Kasey Smith, Zachary Vasquez, Kelsey Higgason and John Paul Padilla. Not pictured is Robert Miller - photo by Photo provided / Coastal Courier
The Hinesville Gators U12 Green team is back-to-back champions in the Mount Pleasant Soccer Shootout.
For the second year the Green, coached by Tom Sukaratana and assisted by Kathleen Valentine, have won top honors at the tournament that attracts teams from across the Southeast.
In the first game of the tournament the Gators reminded their opponents they were there defending the championship. In the 7-0 win Stanford Graham had a hat trick (three goals) off assists by Tyler Causer and Brooke Standard. Standard had two goals of her own, off assists from Ricky Gilliard and Graham, the latter a head shot from a corner kick.
Kelsey Higgason had an amazing goal outside the 18-yard box that was indefensible when it stopped the opposition cold and brought the crowd cheering to their feet. Tyler Buckley also had a great touch, chipping the ball over the goalie's head.
After struggling in the second game against an opponent with a defensive lineup that towered over the Green, Causer came through for the Gators with a hard earned goal, giving the Green a needed morale boost to finish the game off with 2 goals from Graham and 1 from Clark Sukaratana.
After this 4-1 win the Green progressed into the semi-finals. Winning the semi-final game 2-0, the team moved on to the championships.
Higgason scored the first goal for the Gators with another kick from outside the 18-yard box. Asyria Daniels and Gilliard on defense consistently warded off strong assaults on the goal, which was protected by keeper Zachary Vasquez.  Vasquez was outstanding in his return to this tournament allowing only one goal the entire tournament.
Sukaratana, Graham and Causer assisted each other in goals with precise set plays that are becoming a trademark of the Green. John Paul Padilla also scored with a penalty kick, after being fouled while going in the box for a goal. The final score was 5-2.
It has been an unbeatable year for the U12 Gator Green. Since winning the championship in Mount Pleasant last year they have gone on to be finalists and champions in the Kohl's National Cup, Georgia State Championship games, the Concord Fire Challenge Cup, the Savannah Cup and have had an undefeated fall season.
The Hinesville Gators had four new teams travel to the tournament as well. The Hinesville Gator U12 White team, coached by DJ Kimbler and assisted by Chris Martin, placed second in their bracket, being edged out in the championship 4-3. The U10 Boys, coached by Agustin Maldonado, and the U10 Girls, coached by April Causer, also made their debut and had strong showings. The youngest of the Gator teams, the U8, coached by Tom Sukaratana and assisted by Lacey and Robert Whitney, played to gain experience in the older 9-year-old bracket.

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