Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Will Hamryka (11) and Buford's Carlos Gutierrez (9) become tangled while going after the ball during the first half of a soccer game played Tuesday evening in Buford.
BUFORD -- Greater Atlanta Christian's game-planning for Buford didn't include anything about field dimensions. But when the top-ranked Spartans arrived at the soccer field Tuesday night, they knew it would be a big night for Jimmy Stahlke.
The GAC senior took advantage of a narrow field with his long throw-ins in the first half, Vishal Patel scored two goals and the visitors made their first trip to third-ranked Buford's new field a successful one with a 5-2 victory.
"We knew we'd score off throw-ins," said GAC boys coach Thom Jacquet, who wasn't aware of the narrow field until he got a phone call on the bus ride to Buford. "(Stahlke's) a weapon. We've probably scored 20 goals off his throws in his career."
Stahlke's first long throw didn't count -- it soared directly into the goal untouched. But his throw-ins created GAC's first two goals and helped stave off a hot start by the Wolves (9-3, 4-1 Region 6-AA).
Buford jumped up 1-0 on Esgardo Arroyo's 18th goal of the season less than six minutes into the match. GAC (9-4-1, 6-1) answered when Stevin Bienfait deflected Stahlke's long throw into the net for the equalizer.
Arroyo assisted a Carlos Gutierrez goal less than two minutes later, but GAC answered with another goal off a Stahlke throw. Patel finished it off for his first goal of the match.
The Spartans took a 3-2 lead into halftime when Will Hamryka scored on a free kick just inches outside of the penalty box. It was set up when Max Gomas beat two defenders on a breakaway, drawing the foul and a Buford yellow card.
Both sides could have produced more offense, but the goalkeepers and defenders made a number of saves on the goal lines, including a big one early by GAC's Mitchell Singletary that prevented a two-goal deficit. Justin Phan had a big game in goal for GAC as a last-minute injury replacement for Jake Doiron and Baxter Argo made some big stops for the Wolves.
"Our keeper had a magnificent game," Jacquet said of Phan, a freshman.
Those near-misses kept it a one-goal lead for the Spartans, who controlled play in the second half and rarely saw their net threatened. Patel finally got a much-needed insurance goal in the 66th minute off a Bienfait assist.
The victory stopped a five-game Buford winning streak and handed the Wolves their first region loss.
"I'm really pleased," said Jacquet, whose team was coming off a win over previously unbeaten Blessed Trinity. "We knew we'd have to weather the storm if they scored early and they scored early. But we just kind of settled in after that. We're a possession team and we made it a possession game."GAC girls 5,
Buford 2An already banged-up Greater Atlanta Christian girls team got battered even more Tuesday night by No. 9 Buford, but the second-ranked Spartans fought through it for a 5-2 road victory.
The Wolves (9-4, 4-1) challenged GAC (11-1, 6-1) early, though the Spartans jumped ahead in the 17th minute on a Taylor Wagnon goal. The score remained 1-0 for 10 more minutes until a frenzied span of four goals in four minutes.
Buford scored the next two for a 2-1 edge, the first on Ceely Coker's header off Tara Dambach's cross. Caitlyn Dawkins scored the Wolves' second goal on a 30-yard blast a minute after her team's first goal. Both tallies came when Kailey Bryan was out of GAC's central defense with a leg injury.
GAC answered with two goals in a 16-second span to regain the lead for good. Kayla Puzas scored the equalizer when she followed up Tayler McPherson's shot off the crossbar and Hannah Huizenga than scored a quick one for the 3-2 edge.
The Spartans finally got some insurance in the 70th minute on a Danielle Marcano goal, then added another in the 75th when Heather Ferrari scored on Puzas' assist.
Puzas suffered a scary head injury later and left the game with an apparent concussion. GAC already was without leading scorer Rachel Garcia, who suffered a concussion vs. Blessed Trinity.