Photo by Christine Troyke
NORCROSS -- Celebration started a bit early for Collins Hill.
Up a goal in penalty kicks, it looked like freshman keeper Jackson Taylor won the game for the Eagles when he knocked down a Norcross kick. But he didn't catch it and the spin of the ball carried it across the goal line. His teammates were halfway to him when they realized.
He learned his lesson.
"I was like I am catching this," Taylor said of the next penalty kick to come he way. And he did.
This time his teammates finished their sprint to the goal and piled on top of the freshman celebrating, finally, a 5-4 penalty kick win over region foe Norcross. The win knocks the Blue Devils out of a tie for first in 7-AAAAA and puts Collins Hill in a two-way tie with Northview.
"It was a very back and forth game," said Collins Hill head coach Drew Prentice. "That's what you get in our region."
Prentice's familiarity with 7-AAAAA comes from the same experience Taylor lacks. Not only is this the keeper's first year playing high school soccer, Tuesday was his first game back from a chipped bone in his ankle.
He started the second half and in the first minute saw two quick Blue Devil shots and grabbed his first save.
"I just had to get comfortable," Taylor said. "It was one to remember, especially as a freshmen."
Not only did Taylor get his first live action in a pivotal region game, he also entered with his team trailing 1-0.
Through the first half, the game's intensity swung in favor of the home Blue Devils.
Frenetic was the pace from the start. Both teams attacked constantly. The ball rarely stayed near midfield.
"We counter-attacked really well," Norcross coach Chris Bess said. "For a fan of soccer, you really have to enjoy a match like this."
Norcross finally turned a defensive stop into a goal in the 24th minute. A designed throw-in from J.P. Aspinwall found the head of center midfielder Ryan King who sent the ball into the back of the net.
For the next 53 minutes the Blue Devils' defense, combined with its offense held Collins Hill off. Early in the second half, Norcross frustrated Collins Hill into three yellow cards in 11 minutes as the game turned physical.
"We could have kept our composure better," Prentice said.
The composure wavered, but didn't vanish. A veteran Eagles' team just kept attacking. In the final 15 minutes, they fired 10 shots on goal. And with three minutes left, one finally slipped past.
Senior Aldo Lara's corner kick slipped through the wall of Norcross defenders, finally finding the foot of Jonathan Nelson who slipped it into the net, tying the game with 3:11 left.
The tie held through both five-minute overtimes, though both teams came away with runs at the win.
And when penalty kicks came, the pressure fell to the goalies. Taylor spent Thursday practicing against penalty kicks and his confidence was high.
For a freshman, in his first game of the season, he never faltered.
"We're glad to have him back," Prentice said.