Staff Photo: John Bohn Central Gwinnett's Samir Ramic (19) kicks the ball down field while Collins Hill's Paul Ille (9) defends during a second round Class AAAAAA state tournament boys soccer game played on Wednesday. At far right is Collins Hill's Martin Sedarri (8).
SUWANEE --With halftime of Wednesday night's Class AAAAAA second-round boys soccer game just a few minutes away, Central Gwinnett had its best scoring chance.
Samir Ramic sent a ball toward the net and it found its way to an open Rigo Gudiel just outside the 6-yard line. Gudiel fired a shot, but Collins Hill goalkeeper Jackson Taylor charged and got enough of it to preserve a 0-0 tie that held until intermission.
"It was a deflected shot (by Ramic)," Taylor said. "(Gudiel) kind of didn't expect it so it gave me a chance to get out there pretty quick. I just kind of flew at it. Luckily it hit the inside of my leg, it popped up and we cleared it."
Taylor cleared away another dangerous chance early in the second half, then the eighth-ranked Eagles' offense took over with three unanswered goals on the way to a 3-1 victory over No. 4 Central that earned them another home game Saturday night vs. Newnan. Collins Hill (15-5), which has reached the last five state title games, has now won 25 of its last 27 playoff games.
Taylor, a four-year starter, has been in the net for 16 of those victories. Along the way he's made plenty of big saves, and his stop on Gudiel's shot late in the first half was another.
"He made that big one in the first half that really helped us out," Collins Hill boys coach Mike Burrell said of Taylor. "We lost our man in the middle and they had a great opportunity. But Jackson's that guy. He's going to make the big save for us to keep us in the game."
Collins Hill had a 7-0 edge in first-half corner kicks, but couldn't put a quality shot on the Central net off any of them. Central put three first-half shots on net, but Taylor turned them all away.
None was bigger than his third of the half.
"You don't play four years, get a few championship rings and not make saves like that," Central boys coach Bryan Allen said of Taylor. "That guy's got respect. He's got credibility. He can play."
Less than three minutes into the second half, Taylor also punched away a Central cross at the far post, just getting to the ball before Gudiel.
Just 31 seconds later, Jordan Brust got loose on the right side and the natural lefty placed a shot past Central goalkeeper Ricky Ortiz that deflected off the post and into the net.
Ramic answered with a nice free kick to the upper 90 less than three minutes later, but Taylor leapt to his left and punched it over the crossbar.
The Eagles added a pair of insurance goals, the first in the 65th minute when Eli Carrasco sent a free kick to the back post that Paul Ille finished off for the two-goal lead. The tandem connected again in the 78th minute when Carrasco's corner kick found Ille, who headed in his team-leading 26th goal. It also was the team-best ninth assist for Carrasco.
"A corner, a set piece and we run a play, those are three great goals," Burrell said of the second half.
With time running out, Central (14-5) finally got a goal on a beautiful free kick from Ramic that nicked the crossbar and went directly down into the goal. The Black Knights finally broke through against Taylor and stellar defenders Freddie Maier, Jonathan Thomas, Juan Restrepo and Juan Romero, but by then the outcome was decided.
Central's players lingered on the field afterward, upset that their successful season was over.
"I thought we played a real good game," Allen said. "The guys played the game plan like we wanted to. We had a lot of opportunities. We just didn't finish the end. They had three good opportunities and they put them in."