Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

SUWANEE -- The formula for both Peachtree Ridge soccer teams in Tuesday's Area 7-AAAAA doubleheader with Duluth was simple.

Step one, jump out to first-half lead. Step two, hold off the visiting Wildcats' second half rally. Step three, repeat as necessary.

The boys held up their end of the pattern with two goals just over three minutes apart in the first before holding off Duluth 2-1.

Earlier in the evening, Alexis Scott celebrated senior night with the game's only goal on a free kick, and the Lions held on for a 1-0 victory to complete the sweep at Peachtree Ridge Community Stadium.

The Peachtree Ridge boys (6-4, 3-2) not only had to withstand pressure by Duluth (5-4, 1-3), they also had to deal with a couple of prime scoring chances by the Wildcats in the opening six minutes to stay in the No. 4 spot in the area standings.

"We felt like they'd be coming at us all night long," Lions coach Bill Holleman said. "We just needed to weather the first five- or 10-minute storm and then settle in a bit. That gave us a couple opportunities we capitalized on.

After Brandon Harris barely missed putting Duluth in front by putting a pair of headers wide of the goal, the Lions answered twice on the counterattack, both off strong centering passes from Jeremy Rector, near the midpoint of first half.

First, the freshman forward found Zach Morgan, and the senior finished from the top of the penalty area to put Peachtree Ridge in front 1-0 with 20:45 left in the half.

Just 3:24 later at the 17:19 mark, Rector was at it again, this time moving in on the left wing on the counterattack and crossing to Michael Niebanck, who rifled a shot from the 23-yard arc under the crossbar to put the Lions up 2-0.

But Duluth didn't quit, and managed to generate several quality scoring chances, particularly in the second half.

And that pressure finally paid off when Brian Marshall ran down Edwin Romero's long ball down the right win, made a spin move past a defender and scored from inside the penalty area to bring the Wildcats to within 2-1 with 31:37 still left.

"We played well in the second half and kept battling," Duluth coach Gregg Tavani said. "I'm proud of them for that effort, but that's how we have to play the whole game."

The Wildcats had several chances to tie the game, the best one on Kevin Rodriguez's free kick from 30 yards out on the right wing with just under a minute to play.

But Tyler Young was equal to the task by making a diving save, the last of his 13 saves to seal the Peachtree Ridge win and outdueling Duluth goalkeeper Daniel Starovasnik, who made seven saves in a strong effort.

The win by the Lions' girls (7-3, 3-2) was also a big one to keep them right in the thick of the Area 7-AAAAA race, and they had to earn it against the Wildcats (5-3-1, 1-3) in a back-and-forth game.

"There's still a lot of soccer to be played," Holleman said of his girls team. "But this puts us in at least decent position. ... In a game like this, with two teams going toe-to-toe, it often comes down to who can take advantage of a break or two or who can get a break, and we kind of did both (Tuesday) night."

Peachtree Ridge outshot Duluth 5-2 in the first half, and got the only goal with the help of a fortunate bounce in the 31st minute after Scott got to a loose ball at the top of the 23-yard arc and drew a foul.

On the ensuing free kick, Scott's shot deflected off the shoulder of a player on the right edge of the Duluth wall and bounced into the net before goalkeeper Brook Clement could recover, putting the Lions up 1-0 with 10:58 left in the opening half.

"I was just trying to score in the upper 90 (of the goal)," Scott said. "I got a little lucky (with the deflection). I wasn't trying to do that, but I'll take it."

That goal turned out to be huge as the Wildcats created several good chances of their own in the final 35 minutes, including several from Erin Falk.

The best chance came on Falk's free kick from 35 yards out on the right wing in the game's 55th minute, but the shot sailed the just inches over the crossbar.

About seven minutes later, Falk's corner kick from the right wing made it into the penalty area, where Brehisy Zuniga was able to make good contact, only to see it hit off her own teammate and out of trouble.

Lions goalkeeper McCall Gardner was able to make two big saves in the last minute -- part of her five-save performance for the match -- to help preserve the win for Peachtree Ridge.

Despite the loss, Duluth coach Vince Hayes was pleased with his team's effort.

"That's the thing about this region," Hayes said. "Every team has the potential to go all the way to (the) state (playoffs). ... Every game is do or die."