TIFTON - Tift County's soccer teams gave up one goal Tuesday night, but ended up with only a win and a tie against visiting Valdosta High.
The Blue Devils edged Valdosta, 2-1, while Tift's girls fought to a 0-0 tie with the Lady 'Cats. The games were the first of the regular season for Tift's teams.
"I'm pleased," said Devils head coach Bobby Earls after the game.
Jonathan Salazar scored both goals for Tift, one in each half.
After 80 minutes of scoreless soccer in the girls' game, Tift County fans may have wondered if anyone would score this year after the first 39 minutes of the boys' game went the same way.
There were chances here and there. The first 20 minutes had very little in the way of scoring opportunities. Paco Ventura saved a Valdosta shot seven minutes in and Elian Calderon had an attempt go left eight minutes in. Tift mostly controlled the ball, but were unable to penetrate deep into Valdosta space.
Brief flurries of activity happened on a shot by Alex Cardoso and a Jayden Arzola header off a corner kick that missed with 9:30 left. Salazar and Chris Banda had attempts in the last five minutes.
It wasn't until the last few seconds that everything changed. Salazar had the ball near midfield and with the clock ticking down, launched a deep shot. The shot was hard, the angle was good and timing turned out to be perfect: Salazar's ball hit the net as the horn sounded.
Tift controlled the ball in the first half, in part because of a very aggressive group of defenders. This got them in trouble in the second half as a long pass set up a Valdosta striker one-on-one with Ventura. The shot curved in, tying the contest 1-1 with 25:28 left to play.
Ventura stopped another opportunity on a free kick at 18:22. Soon after, Tift had its lead back.
Calderon had a shot go high, but the Wildcats did not maintain possession long. Tift stole it away and slipped a pass to an open Salazar who scored at 16:38.
After regaining the lead, the Devils' defensive wall stepped up, refusing to allow any easy opportunities at Ventura.
"Good defensive effort," said Earls.
LADY DEVILS 0, VALDOSTA 0
As scarce as scoring opportunities were in the nightcap, they were even fewer and farther between in the opener.
Annslee Bassett had a potential one-on-one wrecked by an offsides penalty in the first half. Another shot of hers went wide right later. Valdosta's keeper had to be make a diving save at 2:55, but Tift was unable to take advantage.
Alexandria Heard had the Lady Devils' first big attempt of the second half, a free kick at 30:26 that Valdosta saved.
Perhaps the best opportunity of the night came when Andrea Martinez drove towards goal. She momentarily had a clearing, but a Valdosta defender made a sliding block to end it.
Heard had the last threat by either team for the game, a shot saved with two minutes left.
Strong defensive efforts and work by each keeper kept the nets cleared. Morgen Ray caught every chance that came her way and when it looked like Valdosta might have a try in front of goal, Chayla Lopez came out of nowhere to kick it away.
Tift heads to Northside of Warner Robins Friday.