DEVOLA - On nights when goals are hard to come by in soccer, a team needs its playmakers to step up.
When the Marietta High boys' soccer team squared off against Athens at the Devola Soccer Complex Tuesday in the first round of sectional play, junior Brent Huck stepped up for the Tigers.
Huck, after being ruled a game-time decision, scored a goal and notched an assist for Marietta while playing through a knee injury.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Marietta’s Colin Jordan (7) battles Athens’ Nathan Kinghorn (14) for the ball during sectional tournament soccer action at the Devola Soccer Complex Tuesday night. The Tigers rallied to win 2-1.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Marietta defender Andrew Roberts (18) looks to control the ball as the Athens players move in to contest it. The Tigers rallied to win 2-1.
"I just had to play through the pain," said Huck, who is believed to have a slightly torn meniscus. "It definitely bothers me, but I play through it because I want to be out there so much."
Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Huck launched a rocket shot from just inside the midfield line to the right side of the goal. The ball soared passed the Bulldogs' diving goalkeeper and into the net to tie the game.
"I've really just hit the ball from outside all year," Huck said. "I've been hitting those long shots with a decent leg. I knew one of those shots could possibly bounce in. (Athens' Yonry Zhu) made some good saves. He saved a couple big shots. I just hit it and it bounced in."
t Devola Soccer Complex
Marietta 2, Athens 1
Athens 0 1 - 1
Marietta 0 2 - 2
A- Evan Bates goal, Ryan Goetz assist, 28:01
M- Brent Huck goal, unassisted, 23:52
M- Jacob Holdren goal, Huck assist, 14:19
Shots: Marietta 12, Athens 8
Keeper saves: Marietta 4 (Eric Pierce), Athens 6 (Yonry Zhu)
Corner kicks: Marietta 2, Athens 0
Next match: Marietta at Warren at 4 p.m. Saturday
Later, with 14:19 left in the game, Huck helped put the Tigers on top. After getting past a couple Bulldog defenders, Huck placed a nice ball to the left of the net. With Zhu going towards the ball, Jacob Holdren came over and pushed the ball to the right side to give Marietta a 2-1 advantage.
"The ball came rolling out to the top of the 18," Huck said. "I really meant to put it back post and I hit over top of it a little bit. It rolled right to Jacob and he just tapped it in for a good finish. We've been working a lot on finishing lately because we've struggled with that. It's just big to score two goals in a game like this where you're playing a strong defense."
After a scoreless first half, it looked like a game that would come down to who could score first. That was not the case, however, as Athens got the early lead but could not fend off the Tigers down the stretch.
"We played hard," said Athens head coach Isaac Thomas. "It was a real even game. We didn't get too many lucky breaks after our first goal.
"Both teams played real hard. Marietta is a good team. We gave it everything we had, we just came up a little short."
The Bulldogs got on the board 12 minutes into the second half. Ryan Goetz passed to Evan Bates, who got by a defender to receive the ball and got a shot off. Marietta goalkeeper Eric Pierce dove and got his hands on the ball, but it deflected right into the net.
It looked like Athens had gained all the momentum.
"I was worried about going down a goal because we haven't responded well in the past after being down," said Marietta boss Todd Morris. "We kept battling and pulled it out."
The Tigers out-shot the Bulldogs 12 to 8. Zhu made six saves in eight chances for Athens while Pierce was four out of five in save opportunities for Marietta.
While the loss meant elimination for Athens, Marietta kept its season alive with the victory. Up next for ECOL champion Tigers will be a road match against the Warren Warriors Saturday in another do-or-die scenario.
In the regular season, the Tigers and the Warriors split the series, with Marietta winning 1-0 at home and Warren winning 5-2 on its home turf.
Morris thinks it will be a another hard fought contest.
"We're expecting a battle," Morris said. "We've got three days to prepare. We'll see what happens."