Soccer Teams Make Bold First-Round Statements With Mercy-Rule Wins 

Tenacious Play: Sophomore defender Michael Garcia is tenacious at all times on the pitch. Here the skilled wingback makes a play for the ball in action against Northside in first-round playoff action.

Two mercy rules wins and 20 goals between them. The plenty noteworthy preceding is what the North Atlanta soccer squads accomplished in round one of playoff action. 

Last week, the Warrior girls team was the first to pull off the impressive offensive display on Thursday, March 22 in action against over-matched visiting Valdosta. The next day, on March 23, the boys team managed the same scoring fireworks against  visiting Northside High School from Warner Robins. 

The resounding victories were a strong signal that the Dubs soccer teams are coming ready to make statements and seek further playoff glory to cap off their already successful seasons. The Warrior girls team – back in playoff action after several years off – finished second in 6A Region 4. In the same region, the boys team this year pulled off the program’s first-ever region crown. 

On the boys side, the playoff win was yet another in a long list of superlatives that keep piling up during a historic 2021 season. Five players qualified for first team all-region (Daniel Gardner, Jesus Moreno, Andrii Rodin, Ryan Soyah and Brent Shannon) and two others players were included in the second team all-region (Brian Justo and Diego Fonseca). Eight players were named on the region’s all-academic team. (Sam Nelson, James Newman, Hassan Smadi, Frankie Jubera, Henry Sullivan, Alex Lilly, Levitt Mosley and Daniel Gardner) And program coaches Epimenio Jimenez, Chris Mucha and Jack Stenger were named region players of the year.   

Program coaches say that the team embraced the challenge set before the players at season’s beginning: Play tough in the region and qualify for state playoffs to make a noteworthy run. The team took the message to heart and went undefeated in region play with a perfect 6 and 0 record. The team’s overall record for the 2021 season was 10 wins, five losses and four ties. “It’s been great achieving our team goals, but the truly special thing has been seeing this group of young men come together as a strong unit of fellow players and close friends,” said head coach Stenger

Boys team captains are clear that while an opening-round victory was gratifying, the team is completely focused on bigger challenges to come. The Dubs next play Brunswick High School at North Atlanta on Thursday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m. The Pirates, who notched a first-round 3-to-1 playoff victory against Rockdale County, had a strong season, finishing with 13 wins, four losses and one tie. “I told the guys to be clear in their heads,” said captain Gardner. “After the Northside game was over, that game and that accomplishment was behind us. We’re not done with working and we have to grind it out until this season takes us as far as we can go.” 

Two-year captain Gardner, in particular, has played a large role in seeing his team strongly punch its way into the playoffs. He led the team in regular-season scoring with 18 goals. His continued clutch play meant the team coaches enthusiastically nominated the senior to be as the team’s nominee for region player of the year.

During the week leading up to Thursday’s second-round playoff game, team practice has been focused but also fun. Team captains have noted their teammates are ready to work but also there’s the notable reality that a team in playoff mode is encountering something different. “You just realize how special it’s been and how great it is to play with these guys,” said team captain Brian Justo. “It’s tough to think about this season ever ending. I guess we’ll do everything in our power to see it go as long as it can go.”

And if the boys team continues its elevated style of play, the 2021 season for the boys soccer program just might become even more historic.