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GAC boys outlast North Oconee in overtime

BOGART -- When the dust settled, Greater Atlanta Christian again bested North Oconee in the Class AA boys state soccer tournament. But the match was a dogfight to the end.

This time the two teams met in the quarterfinals where it took two overtimes to reach a 2-1 final score and a trip for the Spartans to host Westminster on Tuesday.

"It was one of the best games we've ever had," GAC coach Thom Jacquet said. "We felt we had lots of chances slip away in the first half."

The game was scoreless until the 64th minute when North Oconee's Jake Faulkner fed the ball to Anthony DiFrancesco, who hit the left corner.

The pair had a similar situation during the first half in reverse when DiFrancesco's attempt drilled the right post, one of several attempts by both teams to hit off the goal. The score was the first given up by GAC in the playoffs this season.

Five minutes after the first strike, GAC's Nash Wagnon scored on a cross from Vishal Patel and the teams took the tie into overtime.

"We knew we had to come from behind," Wagnon said. "We've done it before and we knew we had to put our minds to it."

Both teams had scoring opportunities in the first overtime and just when it looked like things were headed to a shootout near the end of the second, Wagnon scored the go-ahead goal in traffic.

Keeper Dakota Heaton shined for North Oconee in the game, fearlessly tracking down four of his seven saves.

In the first half, Heaton dove to punch out a potential goal attempt to the left from GAC's Stevin Bienfait with inches to spare. In the second half, Heaton charged to snatch up one of the 30-yard throw-ins by Jimmy Stahlke, one of more than 10 he made at the Titans' defense.

"Dakota has come a mile from the beginning of the season," North Oconee head coach David Van Wyk said. "He and our defense have kept us in every game. (Dakota) has no fear -- he's not scared to go after shots."

GAC has three previous state championships, most recently in 2009. The Spartans finished runner-up last year to Westminster after their win over North Oconee. GAC again faces the Wildcats, and Wagnon said his team would be ready.

"We want revenge," he said. "We'll come to play hard again."