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Hebron GK Brandt anchors Lions through winning start

DACULA - When your team is constantly being out-shot and half of your wins have come in shootouts, it pays to have a pretty good goalkeeper.

Hebron goalie Andrew Brandt has been cashing in.

The senior has been the backbone of the Lions' defense this season and is one of the main reasons why Hebron is in a playoff hunt for the first time in school history.

"He has the ability to shape a game by itself," Hebron coach James Greco said. "He can defuse what opponents are doing and stop their offensive movement for the save."

In Hebron's first two seasons in the Georgia High School Association, the Lions only won four games. This season the Lions are 6-2 with three of those wins coming in shootout victories thanks to Brandt.

The Presbyterian College-bound goalkeeper made key stops in shootouts against Buford, Wesleyan and Dacula for wins.

"Going in I'm not supposed to save it, percentage says I'm not," Brandt said. "You just have to get big and get lucky, really. I'm not doing anything no one else can do, I'm just throwing my body out there and trying to make things

happen."

And as for the pressure of having the game on his shoulders, Brandt is used to it now that he has been in four games that have gone to penalty kicks.

"The pressure is totally gone," Brandt said. "I know the team is going to have faith in me either way. I prefer not to be there, but it's not a big deal. It's kind of fun."

Hebron is routinely out-shot 20-4 each game, which is why the 6-5, 195-pound Brandt has made 115 saves this season. Brandt also has two assists this season, punting the ball to the other end of the field to set up goals.

"He's really probably our best field player, too," Greco said "It's a shame I can't have two of him because it would be great to have him in the field."

And fortunately for the Lions his goals-against-average has gone down since last year from four to 0.7 this

season.

But Brandt is quick not to take all the credit for his defensive success.

"It's been all defense. We got a great back line," Brandt said. "We got three seniors in the back and a freshman and they do well for me. I get too much credit. So far they've limited what I've had to do. I make a lot of saves but all the saves are routine easy saves. I'm not called in to do a highlight reel. Every once in a while a PK, but the defense is just awesome."

The Hebron defense features Ross Everett, Matt Turner, Ben Cohen, Will Looney and Matt Green. The five of them along with Brandt have held opponents to a county low seven goals this season.

"We're proud of that. We're never going to get in a shootout, we don't want to get in a shootout," Greco said. "We play each game like it's two games. First half of the game end it at 0-0, move on to the next game. We'll play a 40-minute game and that ends 0-0 or 1-1, we've got a pair of five-minute games. That's our rationale. Play to the end and Andrew gives us an opportunity to play at the end."

In Hebron's wins over Buford, Wesleyan and Dacula, the Lions scored late in the game to force overtime and were eventually able to put the game in Brandt's hands in shootouts.

"There's nothing more satisfying that beating Dacula," Brandt said. "A AAAAA school right down the street. It was a good win, but the Buford one means more because of the playoffs, but nothing can top that Dacula feeling."

Playoffs and Hebron soccer have never been mentioned before, but this year that could change thanks to Brandt.

"He can't win games for us, but he came keep them scoreless and he's done that on several occasions," Greco said.