By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – South Effingham goalie Valencia Collins made a critical miscalculation in the second half against rival Effingham County that led to a second-half goal, but the sophomore was spotless the rest of the way.
Collins stopped two penalty kicks in overtime to lead the Mustangs to an entertaining 1-1 (2-0 in the shootout) win over the Rebels on Feb. 28 at the Corral.
The boy’s game also produced a memorable moment when JP Alonso scored on a header just seconds before the halftime buzzer in South’s 1-0 victory over the Rebels.
A big crowd, that included the Mustangs’ pep bands, witnessed SEHS’ girls even their Region 2-6A record at 2-2, 2-3 overall. ECHS dropped to 0-5 in region play, 2-5 overall.
“(Collins) is developing into the goalie we can depend on in a pinch,” said Mustangs coach Kate Blaske, about her first-year starter who dove to turn aside two shots and watched two others sail over the crossbar as ECHS failed to convert a shootout kick.
SEHS’ Kylee Anderson and Giada Tamargo made their kicks to end the match abruptly.
South’s Savannah Rodriguez opened the scoring at 31:56 of the second half on a 25-yard blast.
About 10 minutes later, Collins had a costly miscue when she grabbed a loose ball just outside the penalty box. The ensuing free kick was blocked but pin-balled around in the box before hitting a Mustang hand for a Rebel penalty kick.
Kinsey Stone converted the shot to tie the match.
SEHS had numerous chances to break the deadlock – including a 2-on-1 break that ended with a tap-in shot traveling over the net in the final seconds of regulation.
The Mustangs finished with a 14-5 edge in shots on goal during regulation and overtime, but ECHS’ backup goalie Abbi Jones, subbing for injured standout Dayanara Figueroa, recorded 13 saves.
SEHS Boys Remain Undefeated
The boys from South Effingham and Effingham County played a completely different game with a minimum of scoring opportunities in the Mustangs 1-0 win.
South had just three shots on goal, ECHS had two in the tightly marked, sometimes rough contest.
Just before half, Grady Smith sent a kick into the box and Alonso’s perfectly placed header became the game-winner seconds before time ran out in the first half.
“Our defense has been solid about preventing shots and making teams take bad shots,” Mustangs coach DaKota Paradice said. “I feel like we’re possessing (the ball) really well but we’re struggling to score.”
SEHS remained unbeaten in seven games (6-0-1, 4-0 Region 2-6A) – the school’s best record to start a season, according to MaxPreps – setting up a key upcoming slate on the road against talented Lakeside and undefeated powerhouse Glynn Academy.
ECHS dropped to 3-3-1, 2-3 in region play.
“It was frustrating because we were coming off a big win (against Lakeside in a shootout) and we just gave up that goal before halftime,” Rebels coach Austin Czachowski said. “That’s Day One basic stuff – communication. Why is there an unmarked man running free? That’s the difference in winning a game.”