EAST JACKSON pelted Union County with four goals Tuesday afternoon and basically locked up a piece of history before halftime.
With a 4-2 win over the Panthers, the Eagles (8-7) — thanks largely to their prolific first half — won their opening round matchup in the region tournament and have clinched a spot in the Class AA state tournament.
“I was pleased with how our boys came out and scored several quick goals,” East Jackson coach Chris Cooley said. “We pressured hard during the first half and looked confident. This is the first time our guys have made state since EJCHS opened and it’s a reflection of the work they have put in over the years."
While East Jackson’s spot in the state tournament is safe, the Eagles will continue on in the region playoffs against East Hall Friday in the semifinals. An upset of the fourth-ranked Vikings would put East Jackson in the region finals Tuesday.
East Jackson hopes it can continue to get off to starts like it did against Union County, scoring three goals in the first 18 minutes.
Nick Alvarado started the onslaught with a score off a penalty kick from 30 yards out in the ninth minute. Less than three minutes later, Ernesto Alarcon scored off a header from close range to up the lead to 2-0. Then in the 18th minute, Jonathan Zarco scored off another close header to give the Eagles a three-goal advantage. Zarco added another goal before halftime as East Jackson enjoyed an insurmountable lead.
“We felt confidently in control,” Cooley said.
Cooley shifted some personnel around in the second half and Union County rallied for two goals.
Now, the Eagles move on to bigger and better things.
“Coach Friedman and I are proud of how the team has improved, and we anticipate some good games in state which will be a great experience for our boys,” Cooley said. “We will enjoy the next few weeks and aim for some big wins.”