Friday night at Mill Creek Regional Park, Dublin and Southeast Bulloch met with Region 3-AA superiority on the line.
After 80 minutes of play, it was clear which team has the upper hand moving forward.
The Yellow Jackets (3-2, 3-0 Region 3-AA) set the tone early, scoring twice in the first 12 minutes of play. SEB notched two more goals in the first half, then held off any Fighting Irish attempts at a comeback in the second half for a 4-1 victory.
“Starting strong and scoring quickly was huge for us,” SEB coach Bob Massee said. “I think that we shocked Dublin a little bit. I don’t know if they expected us to start quite as strong as we did.”
The Yellow Jackets wasted no time in gaining the upper hand.
SEB controlled the ball in the early minutes before breaking through on the scoreboard. In the sixth minute, Yellow Jackets midfielder Sean Healy gained possession and started a run up the right side. Healy stepped through a pair of defenders, then launch a cross that found a sliding Gabe Lundy, who blasted the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
In the 11th minute, Dublin created a run off of a long goal kick, but SEB goaltender Riley Dinkins forced a shot wide left, setting up the game’s pivotal moment. With the Irish’s opportunity wasted, Dinkins tracked down the ball and put it back into play. A high ball bounced once before SEB forward James Jones outraced the Dublin defense, won the ball while sidestepping the Dublin goaltender, then easily knocked the ball in for a 2-0 advantage.
“That kind of play takes a lot of heart,” Massee said. “Riley did a great job to take away that scoring opportunity, then he turned around and created one of our own. Getting a swing like that can really change a game.”
With the momentum heavily on its side, SEB continued to push.
In the 21st minute, Drew Ware sent a long throw-in inside the Dublin 18-yard box. After some jostling that got the Dublin defense out of position, an Irish defender stuck an arm in front of a shot, giving SEB a penalty kick. Caleb Simmons stepped up for the Jackets, easily blasting a low shot into the right side of the net.
With just seconds remaining in the first half, SEB struck once again. A deflected shot popped up in the air and settled at the feet of Ruben Rubio, who chipped the ball in for a 4-0 lead at halftime.
Dublin was able to muscle out a goal in the 57th minute, but never threatened the Jackets’ lead as SEB allowed four shots on goal all night.
“With good teams like Dublin, you don’t want to wake up the hornet’s nest,” Massee said. “I give them credit. They played tough in the second half, but we did a great job of coming out strong early and making it tough for Dublin to come back.”
Friday’s win was especially relevant for a number of reasons. First, the victory keeps SEB at the top of the region standings. Secondly — on a more personal note — it served as sweet revenge.
Last season, the Jackets hosted Dublin and played the Irish to a near dead heat, only to be done in by a questionable foul call and penalty kick in a 1-0 defeat.
“We came out excited,” Massee said. “I’m sure that some of our guys remembered last year. But the biggest part of this win is where it gets us. It was a big win, but now we’ve got more games to play, and we’ll have to play just as well moving forward.”
The Jackets will travel to play region co-leader Bleckley County on Friday.
Lady Irish 5, Lady Jackets 0
Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for the SEB girls.
In the first game of the night, Dublin scored three first half goals, then added two more early in the second half win.
Undefeated in region play entering the game, SEB (3-2, 3-1 Region 3-AA) slid into second place.
“Games like this really highlight what we need to work on,” SEB coach Kristen Barnhill said. “Overall, I thought we played pretty well, but a few breakdowns really hurt us. There were probably three mistakes on defense that led to goals we just shouldn’t have given up.”
While the SEB defense struggled, the offense couldn’t get going. Dublin’s midfield controlled possession for the majority of the game while the Irish back line cut out the few runs that the Jackets were able to create.
Courtney White scored four of Dublin’s goals. Her second strike late in the first half was her 100th as a member of the Lady Irish.
White found the net again early in the second half, and Rachael Cannon scored in the 56th minute.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.