The East Jackson boys’ soccer team has defeated rival Jackson County in seven straight matchups, but they haven’t exactly been blowout wins.
Five out of the last eight contests between the two rivals have been decided by a single goal. East Jackson head coach Chris Cooley expects that trend to continue as the Eagles host Jackson County on Friday in their final Region 8-AAA tilt of the season.
“I expect it to be a closely contested game,” said Cooley. “It is always a strong, positive matchup between the Eagles and the Panthers.”
Cooley believes the Eagles will need to play especially good defense to slow down Jackson County’s Patrick Ventura.
“(Ventura) is a particular threat,” said Cooley. “Our defense will need to neutralize him and be smart in the attack. I am confident in our team’s ability to take charge of that game if our boys play as well as we have seen them play.”
The tilt between the two intra-county rivals brings definite playoff implications for both teams. The Eagles and Panthers are both locked in to postseason play, but seeding is yet to be decided. If the Eagles can pull off a victory, they will likely move up to the No. 3 seed in Region 8-AAA.
Conversely, the Panthers could cement themselves in to the No. 3 seed (depending on results from Tuesday’s matchup with North Oconee) if they defeat either East Jackson or Oconee County.
Last Thursday, Jefferson scored on a last-minute penalty kick to tie the Eagles 3-3.
East Jackson took an early lead in the contest when Aldo Martinez headed a ball for a goal in the 35th minute.
East Jackson applied heavy pressure throughout the first half, but failed to capitalize on several attempts at the goal.
Martinez put the Eagles up 2-0 in the 53rd minute when he put a penalty kick past the Dragon keeper.
The Eagles suffered a defensive lapse around the 55-minute mark, when Jefferson scored on back-to-back goals – one from a scramble and the other from a corner kick.
Edgar Aguirre tied things up for the Eagles in the 66th minute on a successful corner kick.
East Jackson played defensively as time winded down, but in the 79th minute, an East Jackson player was called for touching when trying to protect his face. That penalty resulted in a successfully converted Jefferson penalty kick that led to a 3-3 tie.
“We were disappointed in our performance against Jefferson,” said Cooley. “We were leading through most of the game, missed several chances we should have made and defended too loosely, which allowed Jefferson to pressure back. However, it was a warm-up game for both teams after spring break and sometimes that’s just how it goes. We look forward to the Dragons moving up to our region next year.”