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Collins Hill keeper sends team back to state finals

Photo: Craig Cappy Colins Hill's Zach Lane (15) and Harrison's Andrew Deltac battle for the ball during Wednesday's game.

Photo: Craig Cappy Colins Hill's Zach Lane (15) and Harrison's Andrew Deltac battle for the ball during Wednesday's game.

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Photo: Craig Cappy Collins Hill's Paul Ille (9) battles for control with Harrison defender Jake Alexander during Wednesday's game.

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Photo: Craig Cappy Collins Hill's Eli Carrasco (10) battles for control of the ball while Harrison defender Jake Alexander tugs on his jersey during Wednesday's game.

SUWANEE -- Jackson Taylor remembers saving a penalty kick in regulation against Harrison his freshman year in the state playoffs.

In his senior year, he just missed one. But the Collins Hill goalie, trying to make it to his fourth state championship game, made up for the goal with two saves in penalty kicks to give the Eagles a 2-1 win over Harrison in the Class AAAAAA boys state soccer semifinals.

Collins Hill will play Berkmar on Saturday for the title. This is the sixth straight time Collins Hill will play for the state championship.

"It took me a second," Taylor said of his thoughts after making the game-winning save as his teammates and classmates rushed him on the field. "I was really just waiting to be piled.

"It's a good pain though."

The PK saves were just two of four important stops for the senior. In the first half he stopped a ball from Harrison's Cole Guertin with Guertin just feet in front of him.

"I was lucky to get something on it," he said.

The second came as time expired on a one-on-one drive by Nathan Vickroy to keep the game scoreless into the half.

"I just rushed at him and got a good angle," Taylor said.

The early saves helped bolster the Eagles, who opened the game in dominant fashion.

Harrison started the game with the kickoff, but that seemed like the last time the Hoyas touched the ball for the first 30 minutes.

Collins Hill quickly took possession and rarely allowed Harrison a chance with its defense recovering from most possession changes within moments. In the first 30, Collins Hill outshot Harrison 5-1 with nothing to show for it.

"Eventually they found their legs," Collins Hill head coach Michael Burrell said. "It was a great game. That's how all playoff games should be."

Even with the save just before half, the Eagles didn't find much momentum. The two teams played even early in the second half before junior Paul Ille finally snuck the ball in.

He drove, unassisted from right to left and from the top of the 18 fired the ball into the back corner of the net with his left foot to give Collins Hill a 1-0 lead.

"It was a little lucky," Ille said of his shot, which ricocheted off a Harrison defender. "I got a good foot on it."

With a one-goal lead, Collins Hill took control. The defense, led by Jonathan Thomas and Freddie Maier, kept Harrison away from taking too many shots.

But with six yellow cards issued to Collins Hill, eventually the fouls did their damage.

A yellow card led to a free kick inside the 18 and another foul on the play negated a stop by Taylor and gave Harrison a penalty kick.

Guertin fired left and Taylor guessed correctly, but the ball skipped past him, tying the game 1-1.

The Harrison defense then made a stand, deflecting and stopping three more strikes in regulation and overtime by Ille and setting up the penalty kick finish and Taylor's game-winning saves.

"It never gets old," said Taylor of reaching the state championship.

"He's the best goalie in the state," Burrell said. "This group of guys have worked, probably harder than they've ever had to work, to get to this spot."