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Packer soccer makes it to sweet sixteen in state tournament

Apr. 18—MOULTRIE — Four minutes into round one of the Class 7A state tournament, the Colquitt County Packers varsity soccer team scored to gain the advantage against Brookwood.

After a fierce 80-minute battle on the field, the Packers varsity soccer team defeated Brookwood 1-0.

This is the first time the Packers have advanced to be in the sweet sixteen — second round of the playoffs — since the 2019 season.

"This was a great game," said assistant coach Marcus Lopez. "All these guys believed we could win, and you were able to see all of that hard work pay off."

The Brookwood Broncos from Snellville, who finished fourth in their region with a record of 4-6, traveled to Packer Park Wednesday night.

With everything from freshly painted lines to brand new game balls to an additional referee, this game immediately had more seriousness than usual.

Referees and the starting lineup from both teams walked out to midfield for introductions.

Joshua Ramirez, Hudson Glenn, Alexis Villeda, Uziel Garcia-Diaz, Bryan Ortiz, Oswaldo Leon, Mario Portillo, Edgar Contreras, Dierick Espinoza, Christian Mata and Wilson Hulett were the 11 who began the game for the Packers.

Having the initial kickoff, the Packers maintained possession and instantly took control of the game.

Only four minutes after the starting whistle the Packers got on the scoreboard and gained the advantage.

Contreras shut down a Bronco who was attempting to clear the ball upfield.

Inches before going past the sideline, the ball came to a dead stop after both players attempted to kick the ball at the same time.

Recovering quicker than the Brookwood player, Contreras sent the ball back toward the goal.

Mata was ready.

Anticipating the arc of the ball, Mata moved himself in position so he could sidekick the ball before it hit the ground.

Even with a full body dive, the Bronco goalkeeper was unable to stretch far enough to knock the ball out of the way and it went sailing past him in the upper right corner.

Screams rang out through the crowd from Packer spectators as the athletes ran to each other for a group celebration.

Fifty-four more shots would be taken on both keepers before the final buzzer; however, none would result in a goal.

"Wilson (goalkeeper) had several phenomenal saves, three being one on one attempts," said Lopez. "He knew coming into this game that he would be receiving a lot of long shots attempts from Brookwood."

Hulett stopped a total of 19 shots throughout both halves.

Multiple times it was required for Hulett to become a wall for what seemed to be a bombardment of rapid fire shots.

Each time he succeeded, though sometimes he was forced to deflect rather than catch.

Working as a unit, the Packers defensive line was always ready to assist Hulett when needed.

In one particular save during the second half, Hulett had a full body dive to shut down a shot attempt from within the goal box.

Knowing the ball was moving too fast for him to catch, Hulett purposefully angled his hands for the ball would rebound toward Glenn, who was standing directly to his right.

Ready, Glenn turned as the ball came toward him and, in one fluid motion, sent the ball sailing out of the goal box with a sideways kick.

In a similar play, Garcia-Diaz was the one to get that final touch to remove the ball from the scoring area.

Reversing the order, Portillo used his body to block a short, hard shot in order to give Hulett the time to set up for the rebound attempt so he could knock it out of bounds with a side dive.

"Defensively they all played lights out," said Lopez. "The backline was playing phenomenally the entire game."

Continuing to work as a unit, the Packers were also in the zone offensively.

Other than Mata, who scored the single goal of the game, there were seven other Packer athletes who took shots on goal: Espinoza, Villeda, Contreras, Ramirez, Glenn, Cason Haskins and Turner McDaniel.

Several of the shot attempts were very close and looked as if they would be successful; however, the Brookwood keeper had several fantastic saves which kept the Packers from advancing on the scoreboard.

With that said, the Packers didn't need the goal — they were already winning. The needed to stop Brookwood from scoring.

An already heightened atmosphere continued to build in intensity as the clock ticked down and moved into those last 20 minutes.

Both the Packers and Broncos kicked into final gear and, due to the passion and determination on the field, several cards were given on both sides.

Packers received a total of four yellow cards, where Brookwood only received one; however, the Broncos received a straight red card.

Several quick passes forward by the Packers allowed McDaniel the opportunity for a break away, which would have given him a one-on-one with the Bronco goalkeeper.

Instead, the referee issued a card to a Brookwood player for reaching out with his foot to trip McDaniel from behind.

After the final buzzer and the Packers had officially won the first round of the state tournament every emotion imaginable was present as they celebrated as a team.

Next week, the Packers will compete in round two of the state tournament when they face the Pebblebrook Falcons from Mableton, who finished their region in second place and advanced with a 3-2 first-round win over Marietta.

If the Packers defeat the Falcons, they will tie the school record for most wins in a single season with 16 with the 2002 and 2019 seasons.

Kickoff will be at Packer Park, April 24, at 6 p.m., and then the battle to be in the Elite 8 begins.