Heritage boys, girls make Elite 8 soccer appearances

A historic run for the Heritage boys soccer team continued Friday in Evans. The Patriots, fresh off two road victories in the Class AAAAA state playoffs, tried for No. 3 against Greenbrier in a quarterfinal game that ended too late for this edition (go to www.rockdalecitizen.com/sports for full coverage).

Third-seeded Heritage (14-5) is making its first Elite 8 appearance since the 2002-2003 team tied Dalton 1-1 in the Class AAAA state final, securing a co-state championship for the Conyers school.

In the second round win at Region 7 champion Creekview, the Patriots erased a one-score deficit with Adam North’s tying goal at the 34:41 mark and Edder Mendez’s go-ahead tally with just nine and a half minutes to play.

“They have the mentality of not giving up,” said coach Brandon Stewart, who for the first time in three second round tries advanced a team to the Elite 8 and was honored recently with the Region 8-AAAAA coach of the year award. “(The Creekview game was) the worst game we played in over a month, they bent but they didn’t break. They found a way to win.”

Greenbrier came into the night winning 13 of its 14 games-its only loss was by a 1-0 score to unbeaten and top-ranked McIntosh on March 15-and ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAA by eurosportscoreboard.com. The Wolfpack are trying to get back to the state final four for the second time in three years after a finals trip in 2012.

“We know they are a top ten, quality program and massive team,” Stewart said of Greenbrier. “They’re a tight-nit group, well coached. We’re ready physically, but we’ve discussed the mental and psychological preparation that it takes for the continuous next step one game at a time. The mistakes we made (against Creekview) didn’t cost us, but it will (Friday). The focus we need is there, but we need it for 80 minutes. That’s the tough part.”

The boys were joined in the quarterfinals by their female counterparts as the Heritage girls advanced to their second Elite 8 in three years. Wednesday, the No. 9 Patriots erased a pair of deficits during regulation, then were a perfect 5-for-5 and keeper and Kennesaw State signee Mady Carter saved an Avery Heid shot in the fourth round of penalty kicks to preserve a 3-2 victory over No. 5 North Paulding in second-round play.

For Heritage (15-4), which since early-March has lost just once, 1-0 to John’s Creek on April 15, a ninth final four appearance in program history is on the line when defending state champion and No. 4 Northgate visits Evans Memorial Stadium Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

“I am confident, we certainly can play with anybody,” said seventh-year Patriots coach Chad Suddeth, the Region 8 girls coach of the year who is leading his second Elite 8 team. “Being in the quarterfinals two of the last three years is very special, there’s only a very small handful of teams that can say that, we’re one of them. We feel good.”

Northgate (17-3) is three, one-goal losses from being unbeaten in 2014 and after consecutive, 4-0 wins over Houston County and Harris County in the opening rounds, the Coweta County school has won seven consecutive state tournament games.

It’s the first time since 2002 when the boys team won the state championship and the girls went to the state semifinals that both Heritage teams have made quarterfinal appearances in the same season, according to Georgia High School Association archives.