CONYERS - In a clash of county rivals, Salem's soccer squads proved to be just a little bit better than Heritage on Friday night at Evans Memorial Stadium as both the Salem boys and Salem girls prevailed.
Salem 2, Heritage 0
The girls teams started the show and definitely set the pace for the evening with fast, physical play.
The Lady Seminoles led 1-0 at the half before tacking on a second-half score en route to a 2-0 win.
Salem controlled the ball for a majority of the first half, outshooting the Lady Patriots 13-2.
Salem's first-half goal came 12 seconds after Heritage's first shot on goal.
The score came after Taylor Gates plowed through the last line of the Heritage defense and forced a shot past the sweeper and goalkeeper with 10:49 left in the first half.
The competition tightened up in the second half as neither team seemed to gain an edge.
However, Heritage was called for a foul in the box with 19:25 left in the game, giving Salem a penalty kick.
Caitlyn Cofer delivered on the PK and put Salem ahead 2-0.
Heritage girls coach Chad Suddeth was given a red-card ejection shortly after the goal.
Things got worse for Heritage in the final minute of the game as Megan Drish was also given a red-card ejection.
After the game, Salem girls coach Heather Richardson said the key to the win was persistence.
"I really think that the entire game we never let down. We were constantly winning balls and just playing hard," she said. "They knew this was a rivalry game and the girls were up for it. They were definitely ready to play."
The win moves the Lady Seminoles to 9-2-1 overall and 4-0 in 8-AAAA South play. Salem can wrap up the regular season subregion title and a No. 1 seed in the region playoffs with a win Tuesday against Eastside.
Meanwhile, Heritage moved to 11-2, 3-2 on the season with the loss.
Despite the loss, Heritage girls coach Chad Suddeth gave credit to his players for their effort.
"I'm proud of the girls for putting up a fight and fighting for 80 minutes," he said. "We gave up a fluke goal in the first half, but a goal is a goal. We made a mistake and it never should have got to the point it did.
"Then, we gave up a soft PK. Unfortunately a couple of mistakes is a 2-0 loss. Still, Salem is a good team. They out-played us tonight. I thought we had a couple of chances and Melissa Drish kept it close with her play in goal. We just had no answer for their speed. They were faster than us and they played faster than us."
Melissa Drish finished the game with 16 saves in goal. Salem goalkeeper Kellianne Collins wasn't tested nearly as often, snagging two saves on two Heritage shots on goal.
Salem 4, Heritage 1
The boys game had a much faster start offensively as Colin Easterbrook put his team ahead 19 seconds into the game.
Blake Whitson headed in a goal with 23:26 left until halftime, putting the Seminoles up 2-0.
Heritage threatened to score in the final minute of the first half, but Salem's defense stood its ground and held on to its 2-0 advantage.
In the second half, the Seminoles took a 3-0 lead after Kwazi Yankee scored with 13:47 left in the game.
Heritage's lone goal of the game came with 7:11 left on the clock off a shot from Tyler Peoples.
Salem's Jacob Young added one more goal in the game's last minute to make the final tally 4-1.
The boys teams followed suit from the girls game and continued to play aggressively. The aggressive play also yielded penalties from the referees.
Whitson and Heritage's Kevin Huet and Tim Cook all received yellow cards, while Salem's Daniel Aquilar and Heritage's Toby Brotherton were both issued red-card ejections.
After the game, Salem boys coach Sean DeWeese gave credit to his team for a well played game.
"My team really wanted to win it. They came out strong," he said. "That was the fastest goal I've seen in a varsity match. They kept it up the whole game. We put Heritage in their place."
The Salem boys can also wrap up the subregion title with a win Tuesday against Eastside.
Heritage coach Mike Beshiri said his team didn't have its best showing.
"We had a bad game. We didn't have the chemistry like we've had lately," he said. "They (Salem) were clicking and we weren't. We'll finish as the No. 2 seed on our side. We'll see them in the region playoffs and we'll beat them just like we did last year."
Brandon Evans can be reached at email@example.com.