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Hinesville Gators U12 Green brings home state championship
The Gators U12 Green team includes, in back, coach Tom Sukaratana, Rickey Gilliard, Matthew Fussell, DeShawn Jackson, Asyria Daniels, Kelsey Higgason, Brooke Standard, assistant coach Kathleen Valentine; in frront, Tyler Buckley, Stanford Graham, Tyler Causer, Zachary Vasquez, John Paul Padilla, Kasey Smith and Clark Sukaratana. - photo by Photo provided / Coastal Courier
The Hinesville Gators U12 Green soccer team is number one in the state, winning the Georgia championship in Columbus last weekend.
The Green, coached by Tom Sukaratana and assisted by Kathleen Valentine, made it to the state its second undefeated season and sweeping the district for the third consecutive year.
In the fourth minute of the first game Stanford Graham took the ball to go one on one and score on the goalkeeper of the Fayette Dragons. The Gators scored two more in the last three minutes of the first half when Clark Sukaratana drilled the back of the net with an assist by Tyler Causer.
Within a minute the Gators took control of the ball again and Causer scored a goal assisted by Rickey Gilliard.
In the second half, Sukaratana scored again off an assist by John Paul Padilla.  To finish off the 5-0 win, Brooke Standard assisted Graham for a goal in the last two minutes.
The Green fought a tough defense in the first half of the second game against Cobb County Predators. Causer was able to pull off a goal about 17 minutes into the game. Since the teams appeared matched physically in the first half, the Gators played a mentally driven second half. And the Green dominated the field with 4 goals in the first nine minutes.
Padilla scored first with an assist by Graham. Kelsey Higgason unexpectedly rocketed the ball on a free kick to Sukaratana who capitalized on the opponents’ confusion to score in the third minute. In the seventh minute Graham and Padilla worked together when Graham placed a corner kick to Padilla who headed the ball into the upper corner of the net. In the ninth minute Matthew Fussell sent the ball to Sukaratana who then brought the ball up and scored one-on-one with the goalie.
Asyria Daniels scored the final time for the Gators in the last five minutes of the game assisted by Causer. The final score was 6-1.
The third game highlighted the strength of the Gator defense. Playing against the Dekalb Jaguars, the Gators came up against an offensive team. Despite repeated attempts to drive through the Green defense, the Jaguars were unable to get past Gilliard, Daniels, Higgason, DeShawn Jackson and keeper Zachary Vasquez.
The teamwork displayed by the defense was amazing. Time after time when the opposition got by one teammate there was always another at their back.  Goalkeeper Vasquez allowed only two goals in the eight games of the tournament.
Gilliard scored the only goal of the game when Fussell sent the ball into play off a free kick.  The ending score was 1-0.
The Green met the Cobb FC Mustangs for the first time in the championship match. The Mustangs dominated their bracket. Throughout the first half neither side gave an inch. Hearts dropped when the Mustangs got a lucky goal when the ball hit off a Gator into the goal. The playing field was leveled when Gilliard launched the ball to the goal, which then hit off the head of a Mustang to score for the Green.
In the second half it seemed impossible that either team would score. It appeared a tie-breaker would be needed, but in the last 50 seconds the impossible happened. Asyria Daniels threw the ball in to Clark Sukaratana who split up the Mustang defense, sending the ball through them to Tyler Causer. Causer ran to the goal. Desperate to stop him, the Mustang defense fouled him and free kick was awarded. Stanford Graham set up the free kick. The Mustang defense built a wall in front of the goal. In a completely unexpected move, Graham faked a shot. The Mustang wall crumpled and jumped to attack, and Graham was able to sends the ball by them to the left to an unguarded Causer. Causer hit the back of the net before the opposition understood what was happening.
Final score was 2-1.
The Gators played this championship game in honor of Mrs. Sukaratana, Coach Tom’s mother affectionately called Mama Thai, and for Otto Lange, Tyler Causer’s grandfather, who in life was a loyal supporter of the Hinesville Soccer Association and is sorely missed.
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