Cristian Martinez’s Two Points Get Pittsburg Past Athens In Area Round
LINDALE -- Pittsburg scored two goals in less than a minute and hung on late to defeat Athens in the Class 4A area round Friday at Lindale's Eagle Stadium.
Senior captain Cristian Martinez notched an assist at the 33:55 mark of the second half and then scored from more than 20 yards out at the 33:10 mark en route to a 2-1 victory.
"It's our first time to go this far," Martinez, a 5-foot-6 and 120-pound forward, said. "We got knocked out in this round a year ago. So, we're a really proud team today. I'm proud of my goal, assisting and going to the next round."
Pittsburg (13-7-1) will face Chapel Hill -- winners 7-0 against Atlanta -- in the regional quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. The game will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday inside Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium.
Athens (10-13-2) came out strong in the first half. It put three shots on goal to the Pirates' one in a scoreless first half.
The Hornets got the best opportunity in the first 40 minutes of play. They caught Pittsburg goalkeeper Ronny Garcia out of position, but their shot from the box was deflected away by a sweeper in the right place at the right time.
Pittsburg was playing its first postseason game of the year after receiving a first-round bye.
Martinez and company loosened up a bit in the early minutes of the second half. Martinez fed Eric Ponce with a crossing pass that Ponce was able to head into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"We actually just put in a drill for it this past week," Pittsburg head coach Jody Loewen said. "We've been practicing and practicing it. To see it give us a huge goal was awesome."
Martinez got a steal seconds later, drove about 50 yards and fired from long range for a 2-0 lead. His goal was unassisted.
But Athens didn't go down without a fight. Miguel Gallagos connected on a throw-in into Pittsburg's box to cut the Hornets' deficit in half with 23:08 left in the contest.
Athens got three decent looks in the final 15 minutes, including two free kicks in scoring territory. One shot nearly grazed the crossbar, one was off target and the final was saved by Garcia with just 43 seconds remaining.
"We've talked to the kids all year about believing," Loewen said. "They definitely came out here tonight and proved that they love each other and that they're going to fight every single opportunity they have a chance to fight."
In spite of the loss, Athens finished its 2017 campaign one round further than the 2016 team managed. Thirteen players are expected to return to the roster next season.
Chapel Hill will enter Tuesday's contest with the Pirates as winners of its past three games.
Furthermore, the Bulldogs defeated Pittsburg twice earlier this season by a combined score of 10-1. The sides' most recent meeting was Feb. 3, which Chapel Hill won by a score of 3-1 at home.
"I feel like, if we try even harder than we did today, we can get there," Martinez said. "I believe in my team."