IT WAS Oconee County’s Senior Night, but it was Jackson County who made the memories.
The Panther soccer team (8-5-1, 5-1) shocked the no. 5 Warriors 3-2 Tuesday night on the road after outscoring Oconee County 4-2 on penalty kicks.
Simply put, this is the biggest win in Jackson County boys’ soccer history.
“It’s really great because the guys have worked so hard,” assistant coach Bob Betz said. “We’ve had some seniors who have worked really hard for five years to improve the program and they’re finally starting to see the fruits of their labors.”
Jackson County has already clinched a spot in the state playoffs, but a win like this adds even more luster to what’s been a special season for the Panthers. This is a team that is gaining a lot of confidence.
“They’re really starting to believe that they can be good,” Betz said.
Luis Caraballo and Patrick Ventura both provided goals during regulation for the Panthers in the Tuesday victory.
Caraballo scored off a header in the first half to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The Warriors (15-3, 6-1) answered with a goal before halftime and took a 2-1 lead in the second half. Ventura then tied the game in the 70th minute off an assist from Josiah Morrow.
After two scoreless overtime periods, the game went to penalty kicks. Caraballo, Jose Regalado and Trevor Logan all converted attempts and Alex Torres provided the game-winner.
Betz praised the team’s poise in the victory.
“Even during penalty kicks, everybody was relaxed,” Betz said.
Jackson County even overcame some adversity in picking up this win. Due to an injury to the Panthers’ starting goalie, Luis Sanchez, late in regulation, David Vilamil was pressed into service and came up with two big saves during the penalty kick period.
“I’m really, really proud of the guys,” Betz said. “When we put our minds to it and play like we’ve been taught and trained, we can hang with anybody. We’re looking forward to the (state) tournament.”
Jackson County closes the season today (Wednesday) at East Jackson in a game that will decide the no. 3 and 4 seeds in the Class AAA state playoffs.
NOTE: The Jackson County girls’ team fell 7-1 to Oconee County Tuesday.