MOUNT AIRY - The Alcovy Tigers had three different goalkeepers, but they all had the same result with Habersham scoring as the Class AAAA No. 6 ranked Raiders won a Region 8-AAAA playoff game 8-0 Tuesday at Raider Stadium.
"We played hard. I think we were a little overwhelmed in the first half. It was a new experience for us. For a lot of them their goal had been reached," Alcovy head coach Michael Ebel said. "I think a lot of people will see the 8-0 and not realize how hard we played."
Habersham Central (14-1-1) started the game applying the pressure on Alcovy's (7-7) young defense.
The Tigers were able to withstand the pressure until Nolan Hemmer kicked it past a charging Mike Gregory five minutes into the contest.
The Raiders' second goal came less than a minute later when Gregory let James Clement's kick slide under his hand.
"Those quick goals had an effect on us, I think we were in awe. We're in the playoffs; we're a second-year school; we're Cinderella at the ball. It caught us by surprise," Ebel said.
The Tigers began playing with more confidence, but it was Habersham Central that took advantage of the situation when a fallen Alcovy player allowed Clement to take the pass from Javier Vallejo to make it 3-0 with 27:41 remaining in the first half, beating Cody Stargell.
Clement got his hat trick four minutes later, beating two Alcovy defenders.
Habersham Central showed why they are ranked as high as they are as Juan Vargas became the third Raiders player to score.
Vargas' goal came with 22:29 on the clock to make it 5-0.
Vargas scored his second goal, this one past Alcovy keeper Tim Walsh, with just over nine minutes to go in the first half.
While getting an assist earlier in the game, Vallejo got a goal of his own as Habersham Central added its seventh goal with 7:45 left in the opening half.
The Tigers had two shots on goal in the first half, but they were all from beyond 30 yards, making it easy for Raiders keeper Bo Hatchett to stop.
"We tried to shut them down. They're the best team we've played all year," Ebel said. "They're a contender for a state championship."
Alcovy seemed to settle down and began playing a physical game against the Raiders. However, Habersham Central was able to maintain the advantage, forcing the Tigers to play defense for most of the second half.
"We talked about not quitting at halftime. I told them that it was not my goal to make them better soccer players, it was my goal to make them better men. When you're talking about being a better man, you don't back down," Ebel said. "They stood up and answered the challenge."
The score remained unchanged for 18 minutes of the second half until Hemmer raced past Alcovy's defense unchallenged for a goal.
Once the Raiders got the taste of their first goal, it was like sharks being drawn to blood in the water as they almost got themselves into a frenzy trying to score again.
The swarm of attempts slowed down after three Walsh saves along with a stepped up defensive effort by the Tigers.
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.