The Heritage girls soccer team is one of a handful of legitimate state title contenders in Class AAAAA. Wednesday, the No. 9 Patriots showed why as Faith Shelton and Ray Brown scored two goals each in a 6-1 victory over Tucker in a first round game at Evans Memorial Stadium.
Heritage (14-4), which was coming off the program’s first region championship since 2005, will host Region 5 runner-up and No. 5 North Paulding in next week’s round of 16. Tucker, the No. 4 seed from Region 6 which was appearing in the state playoffs for the first time since a first-round loss to Sequoyah in 2001, finished 9-6-1.
The host Patriots still had a shutout going when Tucker forward Daijah Deramus scored on backup keeper Kylie Kersh what turned out to be the DeKalb County school’s final goal of the season with 19:25 to go in the game.
Brown answered five minutes later when after she was fouled in the box, beat Tucker keeper Taylor Moore on a penalty shot to make it a 6-1 game.
“I’m certainly thankful for the victory and we did enough to have a safe cushion there, but I thought we left a lot of goals out on the field,” said Patriots coach Chad Suddeth, whose taken all seven of his Heritage teams to the state playoffs.
Shelton and Brown each had a chance within the first 15 minutes of the game, but Shelton’s shot at the 38:35 mark was saved by Moore and Brown had a shot from about 20 yards that hit the post with 25 minutes left.
Moore wasn’t as lucky later in the half.
Shelton, who was coming off a dominant performance against Loganville in the region title game that included scoring all four Heritage goals, scored with 23:22 to go for the first tally of the night.
Kaley Wells was fouled and her free kick was high at the 14:15 mark, then found the back of the net less than two minutes later when she beat a diving Moore for a 2-0 lead.
Ally Silvey added a booming goal from about 25 yards, giving the Patriots a commanding 3-0 cushion with 11 1/2 minutes to go until halftime.
Tucker was able to get just two shots on goal against the Heritage defense, both from Tyler Buford, who was stymied twice by keeper Mady Carter.
Moore made a pair of saves early in the second, and Silvey was wide with a header at the 33:15 mark. Shelton scored her second goal with 31:38 to go and Brown got her first with just over 21 minutes left. The Patriots didn’t play their best, but advanced. Now, a 12-4 North Paulding team, which was just a 4-3 loss to Allatoona from winning its region, comes south to Conyers.
“Although I’m pleased to have the victory, I’m not pleased totally with our overall performance,” Suddeth said. “A lot of that has to do with Tucker, they’re real athletic and pressured the ball. We’re fortunate to move forward and every time we move forward a challenge gets bigger and better. We’ll have our hands full (with North Paulding, but) the moment’s not going to be too big for us, we’ve been playing ranked teams all year.”