Panthers fall to Spencer in overtime in first round of state playoffs

Published 11:21 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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COLUMBUS – For approximately 85 minutes, the Sumter County Varsity Soccer Team battled the Spencer Green Wave in a 1-1 draw for the right to advance into the second round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs, but unfortunately for the Panthers, Spencer forward William Marks was able to send a ball across the face of goal to Damien Huerta, who promptly sent a shot past SCHS goalkeeper Evan Garcia for the 2-1 game winner in the first of the two 10-minute overtime periods. Though the Panthers battled hard during the remainder of the first overtime and throughout the second to gain an equalizer, they were not able to come up with that second goal and fell to Spencer 2-1 in the first round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs on Friday, April 14, at Spencer High School.

With the loss, the Panthers finish the 2023 season with an overall record of 10-9.

“It’s hard. We had a lot of momentum coming off the Cook game, but then we had Spring Break and that set the momentum back a little bit,” SCHS Head Coach Michael Pepito said. “We’ve had so many games this year where we’re one off, one off and unable to come up with goal we needed, but that’s the way it is.” Coach Pepito was referring to the game in which the Panthers defeated Cook 4-1 to get into the playoffs. In spite of the loss, Pepito told his club afterwards that they had nothing to be upset about and that he was extremely proud of their effort.

Sumter County senior forward Creighton Meyers shields the ball from his defender. Meyers was taken down in the box in the first half and it led to Ary Flores’s tying penalty kick.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Early on in the match, the Green Wave had a little more of the run of play and had more chances to score, but the SCHS back line held up defensively and made it difficult for Spencer to break through.

However, with a little less than 14 minutes left in the first half, Spencer forward Damien Huerta was able to score as a result of a lack of communication between Garcia and his SCHS back line.

Fortunately for the Panthers, they were able to counter punch when forward Creighton Meyers took the ball towards goal and was fouled inside the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Ary Flores stepped up and converted the PK and both teams would go into halftime with the score tied at 1-1.

Sumter County senior forward Ary Flores is seen here competing for the Panthers. Flores scored Sumter County’s only goal of the match on a penalty kick.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

During the first few minutes of the second half, play really began to open up, with both teams having chances to score. The Green Wave nearly had a 1 v 1 situation with SCHS goalkeeper Evan Garcia, but the Panthers’ defender Kavon Hart was up to the task and tackled the ball away.

Shortly thereafter, the Panthers had a chance to take the lead when Meyers took a shot on goal, but the Spencer goalkeeper was there to make the save.

Both teams battled hard for the remainder of regulation, but neither team could bag the game winner and the match had to go to extra time.

Sumter County sophomore midfielder Anthony Duque competes for the Panthers against Spencer.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In Georgia High School soccer, if the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game goes to two 10-minute overtime periods. In the first overtime period, the Green Wave broke through with the eventual game winner when William Marks beat his defender and slotted the ball across the goal mouth where Huerta was their to send it past Garcia for his second goal of the match and the eventual game winner for Spencer.

The Panthers tried hard to get the equalizer throughout the remaining minutes of extra time, but were unable to do so and fell to the Green Wave 2-1.

Sumter County freshman striker Luis Diaz is seen here with the ball competing for the Panthers against Spencer.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Spencer (10-1-1) will advance to the second round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs and will face the winner between Thomson and Tattnall County.