ROSWELL -- Playing in less than ideal weather conditions and without its star player, the Dacula boys soccer team defeated Centennial 2-0 in the opening round of the AAAAA state playoffs on Wednesday night.
High winds frustrated both teams all night, but the Falcons used the elements to their advantage in the opening half as they played with the wind at their backs. The visitors scored both of their goals in the first half, mustering up enough offense without reigning Daily Post player of the year Ado Junuzovic, who served the first of a two-game suspension for a red card.
"We kicked with the wind in the first half and it really helped us out," Dacula head coach Mike Burrell said. "It was like a 12th guy out there and gave us some more distance on our balls...we just tried to play direct at them. The conditions really weren't as bad as we thought. It could be raining, but it was just the wind and we used it to our advantage.
"We didn't know what to expect, but we heard they were beatable and we thought we'd just come out and give it everything we got."
Senior Michael Kanu and junior Davian McEwan combined for both goals as the Falcons took the 2-0 lead into halftime.
The first goal came at the 14:56 mark of the opening half after Kanu headed in a cross from McEwan deep inside the Knights' offensive zone.
Kanu returned the favor with 6:30 remaining in the first half as he sent a free kick from near the midfield stripe into the Centennial box and McEwan flicked the ball in off the back of his head, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead.
Centennial controlled play in the second half as the Knights maintained possession for a majority of the final 40 minutes, but they were unable to score as Dacula's defense stood strong, sending the Falcons into a matchup next Wednesday at two-time defending state champion Collins Hill.
"My defense has stepped up for about the past month now," Burrell said. "We've had a few blank sheets and we've got some very strong defenders. That's what we're going to depend on going forward and if we can squeak in a couple goals on set pieces like we did, that's great.
"They came out and they played very hard...it wasn't the prettiest, but sometimes pretty isn't effective and not so pretty can get the job done -- especially out here in high school soccer."