Raji's hat trick leads two-time defending champ Eagles

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Collins Hill's Jordan Brust (14) tries to score as Marietta goalie Guilherme Viana grabs the ball out of the air on Wednesday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Collins Hill's Jordan Brust (14) tries to score as Marietta goalie Guilherme Viana grabs the ball out of the air on Wednesday.

SUWANEE -- For a two-time defending Class AAAAA state champion, Collins Hill's boys soccer team entered Wednesday night's first-round game short on playoff experience.

Not that it showed too much.

The second-ranked Eagles, sporting a completely revamped lineup from last year's championship team, scored goals in a pair of first-half flurries and rolled to a 5-1 victory over Marietta. Emmanuel Raji scored three of the goals, powering Collins Hill into a second-round matchup next Wednesday against Dacula.

Collins Hill (17-1) won its 11th straight game and got some playoff action for the entire roster as the starters sat for most of the second half.

"Some of our older (players) who didn't have significant minutes last year, they looked a little nervous for awhile, but they settled down," Collins Hill boys coach Drew Prentice said. "Our midfielders played really well and Emmanuel Raji played great up top. He's on fire right now."

Raji got the Region 7-AAAAA champions off to a quick start with a goal just 21/2 minutes into the game off an assist from Nima Vojdani, who had played a long ball into space. Less than three minutes later, the lead was 2-0 when Amiri Abraham juked a defender at the corner flag and crossed to Raji, who finished at the far post.

The next 20 to 25 minutes didn't go so well for the hosts, though. Looking sloppy for much of that time, the Eagles allowed a goal to Marietta's Cleivin Lopez in the 17th minute and spent most of the first half in a 2-1 game.

But Collins Hill revved the attack back up late in the half, showing more energy to score twice in a 21-second span to lead 4-1 at halftime. The first goal came when Dominic Bonilla's cross allowed Jordan Brust to finish into an open net, and the second from Zak Wallingford all but finished off Marietta (7-10).

Raji scored a breakaway goal just over seven minutes into the second half, which slowly sent the Collins Hill starters to the bench for good.

Collins Hill's defense was solid after allowing the first-half goal, and Zaki Colabawala pitched a second-half shutout at goalkeeper after coming in for Jackson Taylor.

"It was good to get some rest for some guys," Prentice said. "We're still nursing some injuries. Not big injuries, just nicks and knocks here and there. So by playing a lot of guys, it means we'll be able to have a full training session (Thursday) and not have to take a day of rest. We can just work on getting ready for the next game."