The first round of state for the Dawson County Tiger men's soccer team was a defensive battle with Jackson County. Coach Jed Lacey's team prevailed in the second half taking a 2-1 victory and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Both teams relied on their defense in the first half.
The Panthers packed their defensive scheme and gave the Tigers few avenues for penetration.
The defensive strategy led to a scoreless tie at halftime.
Jackson County played physical with the Tigers, receiving several cards for their aggressive style.
"It was a good game tonight. I knew Jackson County was going to pack it in on us and make it difficult to score but we got the job done," Lacey said. "Jackson County tried to make up for their lack of skill with physical play. They spent so much time trying to foul us they didn't have enough numbers on the offensive end. This is the first time in all my years of coaching I saw so much fouling by the opposing team in a state playoff game."
The Tigers broke through with a goal at the 37:48 mark of the second half to take a 1-0 lead.
Jonathan Steele scored on an assist by Dennis Pyetsukh. It was Steele's fourth goal of the year.
Dawson County made it 2-0 on David Velasquez's 11th goal of the season on a penalty kick with 29:24 left in the contest.
Jackson County then got a free kick and scored two minutes later to cut the Tiger lead in half, 2-1, with 27:14 remaining.
It was a mad scramble during the last 25 minutes, but Dawson County held on for the win.
Keeper Ty Anglin made several big saves for the Tigers to preserve the victory.
"Ty Anglin is playing well in goal for us right now," Lacey said. "I am so proud of him and how he has worked and made himself into a top keeper. Ty gives us a chance to win every game and in the playoffs you have to have a keeper like that to win state."
Lacey said he was also proud of the play of his offense.
"Brandon Lund did a great job pushing up on goal and trying to get by five to six defenders. Randy Schultz and David Velasquez dominated possession in the middle of the pitch helping us control the tempo. Jonathan Steele was a workhorse. Jonathan has to go pole to pole, and because he did his job we scored two goals. Jonathan is playing some of his best soccer of the year right now and that is important," he said.
The Tigers were able to get the win without the play of midfielder Sal Mendoza. Mendoza is out for two games after receiving a red card against East Hall.
"This team has done a great job taking on everyone's best in trying new defenses to stop our speed. These guy's work so hard and play so well together they just overcome all adversities. This team has a lot of heart and that is going to carry us through rough times that come up during games," Lacey said.
Up next for Dawson County will be a trip to Savannah to face Islands High School today.
Islands is the No. 1-seed out of Region 1-AAA.
Coach Dante Casagrande's team defeated Peach County 6-1 in the first round.
Islands comes into the game with a 14-2-2 record and a No. 9 ranking.
If Dawson County defeats Islands the team will face the winner of Decatur (8-8-1) No. 8-ranked and Sonoraville (10-7-0) on May 9.
The game will also be on the road.
Coach Lacey's team is currently ranked No. 5 and boasts an 11-3-2 overall record.