Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood goal keeper Brandon Schuster (1) throws the ball into play after making a save against Peachtree Ridge during an opening round Class AAAAA boy's soccer playoff game played Tuesday. Brookwood defeated Peachtree Ridge 2-1.
SNELLVILLE -- There was probably enough drama for an entire season wrapped up in Tuesday night's first-round Class AAAAA state playoff game between Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge.
The host Broncos scored twice in the opening act, and then withstood a frenzied second half to make sure there would be no encores in holding off the visiting Lions for a 2-1 victory at Brookwood Community Stadium.
First-half goals by Kelson Brunelle and Malik Jalal were enough to send the Broncos (15-3) into the second round, where they will play host to Newnan on Tuesday.
But each team had chances to put up plenty more goals in an exciting back-and-forth contest.
"What a great game," Brookwood coach Danny Klinect said. "Both teams had chances. I think we hit the post twice. They hit the crossbar once. Both teams scored goals that were offsides. I told our boys, 'That's typical playoff soccer.'
"Unfortunately, one of the teams had to go home. Hat's off to Peachtree Ridge. They played a great game. ... It's a pity (two) Gwinnett (schools) have to match up like this (in the first round), but what a great Gwinnett County game."
The excitement started pretty much from the opening kickoff, and carried on as Brookwood jumped in front in the first nine minutes by cashing in on a strong throw-in just a few feet outside the corner flag by Bryson Dorsey.
The junior's throw from the right sideline carried into the penalty area, where Brunelle headed it past a diving Peachtree Ridge goalkeeper Daryl Sack to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Lucas Raposo had two chances to pull the Lions even in a six-minute span just past the midpoint of the half.
But the first off Daniel Rodriguez's corner kick was stopped by Brandon Schuster, while the second in the penalty area off Juan Herrera's right-wing free kick from 30 yards out clanged off the crossbar.
Given the reprieve, Brookwood gave itself some breathing room late in the 36th minute of the half.
Adrian Alabi sent a long ball up the left wing that Malik Jalal ran down and managed to sneak past a charging Sack, who had come off his line to try to smother the ball just inside the penalty area.
Peachtree Ridge had a defender recover, but Jalal's shot deflected off him and into the net, extending the Brookwood lead to 2-0 with 4:43 left in the first half.
But that lead lasted just 43 seconds, as Herrera got Peachtree Ridge back into the game with a little hustle.
The senior sped into the box as Jeremy Rector sent a right-wing cross along the ground across the penalty area and tapped the pass inside the back post with four minutes left in the half, sending the Lions into intermission down just 2-1.
But it was nothing compared to the intensity both teams brought to the second half.
"Unfortunately, we waited until the second half to start playing the way we could," Peachtree Ridge coach Ryan Sutton said. "Our intensity level wasn't there for the first 40 minutes. We waited until we got down. We fought back, ... but we just couldn't quite rebound from (the early deficit)."
After Brookwood misfired on several chances to retake a two-goal lead in the second half, Peachtree Ridge had its share of chances to climb back even.
Twice the Lions thought they had evened the game, once in the game's 49th minute when Rector found the back of the net off a mad scramble in the penalty area and again with just over three minutes remaining on Herrera's shot.
But each time, the linesman's flag was up for offside, negating each goal and keeping Brookwood in front 2-1.
"We thought we got the lead with the two goals disallowed," Sutton said. "But we were unfortunate about that. ... Congratulate Brookwood. They hung in there. They got the lead. They defended well. We couldn't quite penetrate and get through them. But we'll learn from it. I know the guys will keep their heads up and keep fighting for each other."