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Buzzer-beater dooms Dacula in second-round loss

Photo: David McGregor. Dacula keeper Kris Alonzo deflects a shot during the Falcons' loss to Milton in the Class AAAAA state playoffs Tuesday night.

Photo: David McGregor. Dacula keeper Kris Alonzo deflects a shot during the Falcons' loss to Milton in the Class AAAAA state playoffs Tuesday night.

DACULA -- It's a buzzer-beating goal that Dacula's boys soccer players will never forget. The one that ended a 13-game winning streak and the best season in school history.

Sixth-ranked Milton scored a goal with two seconds left in the first half Tuesday night for a 3-2 advantage that held the rest of the way, eliminating the fifth-ranked Falcons in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

"That was the back breaker, putting that one in," Dacula boys coach Mike Burrell said. "It was questionable what happened in the box but we should have gotten back and defended. ... I'm just proud of my guys. I'm the proudest I've ever been of any program."

Dacula (15-4) jumped out to a 2-0 lead and seemed to be cruising, but Milton (15-4) answered with three straight goals in a first-half that saw the visitors hold a 9-4 edge in shots on goal.

The last of the opening half was the game-changer.

Milton's Lucas Ade rushed to take a corner kick as time was winding down in the first half and sent a cross to the back post, where Ryan Degnanto hit it to Tom Duffy for the goal. At that point, momentum had finished swinging in the Eagles' direction.

Dacula's counterattack dominated the game's early stages, leading to both goals on breakaways. A long clearance by Jamie Gleeson set up the first goal as it was placed out perfectly in front of a racing Luis Huertas. Huertas outraced two defenders and slipped in a low shot for the goal in the ninth minute.

Ten minutes later, the Falcons again charged forward quickly after a defensive stop. Michael Kanu connected with Gleeson near midfield and Gleeson did the rest on the break, beating two defenders and the Milton keeper.

Matt Thomas got Milton on the board in the 21st minute with a rebounded shot and the equalizer came in the 32nd minute off a corner by Ade that was headed in by an unmarked Nick Nova.

It was followed by the painful, buzzer-beating goal.

Dacula had chances at a third goal -- Ado Junuzovic and Huertas each hit the crossbar -- but couldn't quite finish. Goalie Kris Alonzo made eight saves, including two diving ones early in the first half that he punched just wide.

A disappointed Burrell was still happy with his team's breakthrough season that featured its first Region 8-AAAAA title, as well as victories over perennial powers Brookwood and Parkview. It was a great finish for Dacula's 12 seniors, even though the final game was tough.

"It was good to go up two goals, it gave us a lot of momentum and it just kind of slipped away from us," Burrell said. "But the guys played remarkably well tonight and gave it everything they had until the end. That's all I can ask from a group of guys."