Hebron pushes Pace to brink

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

ATLANTA -- Anyone who expected Pace Academy to overwhelm Hebron Christian in the Class A boys soccer playoffs was wrong.

The underdog Lions pushed host Pace to the brink Saturday afternoon before falling 2-1 and ending the most successful season in school history in the quarterfinal round. Eighth-ranked Hebron (14-4-2) led 1-0 at halftime, only to watch No. 2 Pace (14-2) rally with a pair of goals midway through the second half.

"We showed them we could hang with them," Hebron boys coach Bob Gardner said. "It was a hard-fought game. My kids left it all on the field and that's all I could ask of them. Hopefully we earned more respect for Hebron soccer. We played a tough schedule to get ready for games like this."

Hebron made a statement early, scoring in the game's first 10 minutes. Josh Manga scored off a Kevin Sharpton assist for a lead that lasted until well after halftime.

Goalkeeper John Foley and the Sean McCullough-led defense held off numerous Pace charges, but the hosts eventually broke through. Austin Pinto, Chris Austin, Cole Redmond and Billy Pinto played well in the midfield and helped the Lions make a handful of late charges for the equalizer.

But none of the shots fell, ending the high school careers of eight Hebron seniors, all of whom play vital roles.

"We had several opportunities late, especially the last five minutes," Gardner said. "We pressed them hard and had several shots. We just couldn't get one in. It was an intense game. It was nip and tuck the whole time. But we never quit. We were there to the end."