LIVE OAK — The Suwannee and Hamilton County boys soccer programs are in the midst of great seasons. They met Thursday at Paul Langford Stadium and played a competitive match.
The Bulldogs, celebrating their nine seniors for Senior Night, got on the board early. The Trojans scored late in the first half as the teams ended with a 1-1 draw.
Grayson Gill scored Suwannee’s goal in the eighth minute off a pass from Wu Tum. The Bulldogs took advantage of two-on-one breakaway to take the lead. But they couldn’t spark much offense in the final 72 minutes.
The big leg of Julio Celez provided Hamilton County’s goal. In the 33rd minute, Celez booted a free kick into the top of the net from 40 yards away. The Trojans, who had been dominated by the Bulldogs in recent years, had good looks in the second half to score a go-ahead goal. But Hamilton County (10-1-4) coach Horacio Perez was happy to come away with a tie.
“It gives us confidence knowing that we’re contenders in the playoffs,” Perez said of coming away with a tie against Class 4A Suwannee and continuing to play well. “They’ve been playing fantastic soccer this season. We’re excited for what the future holds.”
For Suwannee (9-2-5), it was a rare off night during a strong season.
“I think we were a little flat, we were allowing too many balls down the middle and not even applying pressure,” said SHS coach Chris Joyner. “Right now we’re having a heck of a year. Only two losses and we have the potential to get 10 wins in the regular season.”
Beyond the game
“This is my tenth season. This is the best team I’ve had in a long time. They have the talent, skill and chemistry. They’ve all been playing together for at least three years and are buying into teamwork.”
— HCHS coach Horacio Perez
Suwannee is trying to make it back to the state playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Bulldogs are currently 5-0 in district play and will host the district tournament, which starts on Jan. 31.
“District play everything changes. It’s win or go home. I’ve got faith in my boys,” said Joyner.
Suwannee celebrated nine seniors — Gill, Wu, Yimmy Alvarez, Pedro Rodriguez, Ulises Torres, Ian Willis, Cade Valin, Jase Kelley and Herman Gunter — before the game.