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Spartans make short work of Thomasville

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

NORCROSS -- This is the downside of dominant playoff victories.

When Grant Griffin scored on a chip shot over the goalkeeper's head in Saturday afternoon's Class AA boys soccer quarterfinals, Greater Atlanta Christian's day was shortened by the mercy rule of a 10-0 final. At the time, there were still more than 25 minutes left in the second half against Thomasville.

The top-ranked Spartans (16-2) got to play just 54 minutes, 8 seconds, instead of the typical 80 in a tune-up for a semifinal match against the North Oconee-Dublin winner on Wednesday.

"We've got to be fit for the big matches, so for (the starters) to only be playing 30, 40 minutes, it's hard," GAC boys coach Thom Jacquet said. "They were begging me at halftime to let them keep playing."

Despite liberal substitutions, GAC's reserves also were too much for the Bulldogs (10-9-1) and invoked the 10-goal rule. Paul Ilie (off a Ryan Yates assist) and Max Gomas (off a Nash Wagnon assist) made the lead 9-0 before Griffin's goal finished a flurry of three goals in less than three minutes.

Prior to that, the Spartans' starters dominated Thomasville for the second time this season. The two teams played Feb. 21 at Thomasville, with GAC winning 9-0 despite missing key players Stewart Abrahart and Danny Knight.

It took just 1:16 into Saturday's quarterfinal for GAC to score as a long punt from goalkeeper Marius Heislitz found Abrahart, who assisted a Kyle Rees goal. Slightly more than five minutes later, Denzel Clarke scored on a header off Rees' corner kick.

It was the first of two goals for Clarke, who turned 18 on Saturday.

"We thought if we could get that early goal it would take them out of the game," said Jacquet, whose team has won its three playoff games by a combined score of 25-1.

Cameron Johnson's long ball to Stevin Bienfait made it 3-0 and Clarke's left-footed blast provided the fourth goal and earned him a "Happy Birthday" song from the home crowd.

Rees scored his second goal on a penalty kick, a reward for being taken down in the box seconds earlier, late in the half and Knight scored off a Bienfait assist just 30 seconds before halftime. GAC's regulars didn't last long after halftime when Rees assisted a Bienfait goal just 42 seconds into the second half.