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Collins Hill strikes early, often in 5-0 win over Meadowcreek

SUWANEE -- In a game as important as Collins Hill's Region 7-AAAAA boys soccer match with Meadowcreek, how a team starts can be just as important as how it finishes.

The No. 8 state-ranked Eagles handled both ends of the first half well against the Mustangs, jumping in front less than two minutes in and scoring twice more in the final 13 minutes to take a big lead before cruising in the second half to a 5-0 win Thursday at Collins Hill.

Amiri Abraham scored twice, while Emmanuel Raji added a goal and an assist as Collins Hill (9-3, 4-1) headed into spring break maintaining its share of the region lead with fourth-ranked Mill Creek.

"That's definitely what we talked about before the game," Eagles coach Drew Prentice said. "I felt like if we can jump on people early and keep them under pressure and get the early goal, that's soccer. Any team that can get that early goal is just going to be in the driver's seat for at least the next 10 to 15 minutes.

"That's something we talk about -- winning the first five minutes of every match. We did a good job with that. ... And getting the goal(s) really late was good, too."

Abraham gave Collins Hill the early momentum Prentice was looking for by converting a left-wing cross by Zach Jones to put the Eagles up 1-0 just 1:18 after the opening kickoff.

The goal also forced Meadowcreek (8-3, 2-3) back on their heels.

"The guys came in flat," Mustangs coach Jean-Jacques Gregoire said.

"They didn't come prepared to play. Actually, it began (Wednesday) in training. I think they put a lot of energy into the Duluth game (a 2-0 road win Tuesday), and they weren't prepared for what they received (Thursday). Collins Hill's a great team."

Martin Sedarri pushed the Collins Hill lead to 2-0 with his goal off an assist by Raji at the 26:59 mark of the first half, and the Eagles were just getting started.

A sequence of nifty passes ended when Khalil Stewart sent a feed into the middle, where Nomis Cisic let fly with a one-time blast that found the back of the net and extended the Eagles' lead to 3-0 with 13:06 left in the half.

Juan Ruiz then tapped a bouncing ball over the head of a charging Meadowcreek goalkeeper Mirsha De la Cruz to set up Abraham's second goal of the game with four seconds left in the half to send Collins Hill into intermission with a commanding 4-0 lead.

And while that lead seemed pretty safe, it took some brilliant saves -- including two of separate set pieces in a six-minute span -- from Eagles goalkeeper Zaki Colabawala, who came on in relief of Jackson Taylor in the second half, to keep it that way.

First, the sophomore punched a well-placed free kick from the left wing by Jesus Bonilla over the crossbar in the 48th minute.

Colabawala then made another punch save off an identical free kick from the just outside the penalty area on the left wing by Bonilla, before snagging the ensuing corner kick in the 54th minute to keep Meadowcreek from gaining momentum.

That effort was rewarded when Raji added the exclamation point by picking up a steal along the right sideline, dribbling inside the penalty area and firing a rocket inside the upper 90 to extend the Collins Hill lead to 5-0 with 16:29 remaining.