Over the long and hotly contested Georgia Class 7A soccer season, the Lambert Longhorns and the Hillgrove Hawks have stared warily at each other across the north suburban divide. They matched each other win for win and, almost, goal for goal. Both won their regions with ease. Lambert was ranked #1 in the state; Hillgrove, right behind, ranked #2. But until Wednesday night, they hadn’t played each other, hadn’t settled which team was best.
Wednesday night, Lambert (19-1-0) boys varsity settled it…decisively…rocking the Hawks, 5-0, in the state quarterfinals before a large and loud crowd at the Horn. The Longhorns scored three second-half goals in five minutes to clinch the victory.
Both teams threatened in the first half. Twelve minutes into the match, Hillgrove barely missed a goal and a 1-0 lead after clanging a shot off the crossbar. Saved by the woodwork, the ‘Horns battled back. And, around the 20-minute mark, senior striker Hayden Fontana, took a pretty pass from junior Trey Kirksey, outdueled two Hawk defenders in the box for the ball and chipped a shot over the keeper for the first goal of the match.
Neither team would score again and Lambert walked off the pitch at halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The second half quickly became sheer delight for the Longhorns and their fans. Just six minutes in, Hayden Fontana got the party started, taking a long pass from junior defender Harry Maughan and, from 16 yards out, blasted a shot into the upper left corner of the goal. Hillgrove pleaded for offside, but didn’t get it. The goal stood. Lambert 2, Hawks 0, with 34 minutes to play in the match.
Things got worse for the Hawks in a hurry when senior Jay Patterson headed down a corner from senior Thomas Powers in the box. Patterson outfought four Hillgrove defenders for the ball and, while falling down, slashed it into the back of the net for a 3-0 Lambert advantage with 31 minutes to play.
The defending state champions struck once again just one minute later on a beautiful passing play. Sophomore Julian Cuervo moved the ball from the sideline to midfielder Campbell Wilson, who spotted Fontana open from 12 yards out to the left of the keeper. Fontana coolly slotted home the ball for his 25th goal of the season and a 4-0 lead.
To their credit, Hillgrove continued to attack the ever-sturdy Longhorn defense and, with about 17 minutes left, appeared to win back a goal on a rising shot targeted for the upper right corner of the net. But, Lambert goalie Chris Smith, who made six saves on the night, preserved the shutout with a magnificent diving save, tipping the ball just wide with his outstretched finger tips.
The ‘Horns now certainly sensed victory and pressed their attack, drawing a foul just outside the Hillgrove penalty box. Trey Hines took the free kick, driving it over the Hawks’ wall and into the back of the net. The keeper never moved. 5-0 Lambert with eight minutes to play.
The 'Horns ran out the clock, winning an enormously satisfying 5-0 victory over a very tough opponent. The shutout was Lambert's 15th of the season. Such a loss was uncharted territory for Hillgrove (19-2-0), which hadn’t been shut out all season, and had never given up more than three goals in a match. On to the Georgia Class 7A semifinals!
Tuesday, May 14, the Longhorns host Meadowcreek in the state Class 7A semifinal match. The Mustangs (12-6-1) , of Gwinnett County, advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 win over North Paulding. Lambert and Meadowcreek have not played each other this season. They share two common opponents, Collins Hill High School and South Forsyth High School. The Mustangs lost to Collins Hill, 4-2, on April 14th and defeated South Forsyth, 4-2, on May 2nd in the second round of the state playoffs. Lambert defeated Collins Hill, 3-0, on May 1st in the second round of the state playoffs, and defeated South Forsyth twice, 2-0 on Feb. 26th and 3-1 on March 22nd..
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Horn. The boys’ match follows Georgia's top-ranked, undefeated (!) Lambert girls’ playoff quarterfinal, against Brookwood (12-3-0), ranked #5 in Georgia, at 6 p.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 at the gate, and will provide admission for both matches. No free passes are honored for state tournament games.
Please join us IN LARGE NUMBERS and support our teams as they continue their quests for the Georgia state 7A high school championship! HOOK ‘EM!!
QUARTERFINAL PLAYOFF RESULTS FOR CLASS 7A REGION 5:
LAMBERT 5, Hillgrove 0
Milton 1, Roswell 0
NEWSPAPER STORIES ON THE LAMBERT-HILLGROVE GAME: