Berkmar’s attempt to win the Region 8-AAAAA boys soccer championship was derailed Tuesday during Senior Night in Lilburn.
The fourth-ranked Patriots (14-2-1) had plenty of chances with the ball in front of the goal, but came away empty in a 1-0 loss to defending region champ Dacula (12-4-1), which held off several Berkmar scoring chances after Ado Junuzovic’s bad-hop goal 27 minutes into the game.
The loss ended a seven-game winning streak and put Berkmar in jeopardy of falling from first place to third heading into next week’s state playoffs.
The Patriots are 7-1 in the region and need Dacula (6-1 in league play) to lose at Central Gwinnett, which has won only two region games, to claim the region title. A Dacula win creates a three-way tie—Brookwood also is 7-1 in the region—and the tiebreaker would likely mean Berkmar will be the third seed and play on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
“The good news is this is the first time in over 20 year we’ve made it to the tournament,” Berkmar coach Tracy Crouch said, acknowledging that it is unexpected for Central to upset Dacula. “That was our overall team goal at the beginning of the season. That’s still the silver lining for us.”
Tuesday’s match was a defensive struggle, in which Berkmar controlled the midfield and had more scoring chances, but couldn’t capitalize. Both keepers—Dacula’s James Fukartas and Berkmar’s Juan Carlos Lopez—were exceptional, as were both defensive lines.
Junuzovic’s goal came on a low shot with topspin that looked to take a bad hop past Lopez. “[Lopez] played a good game, but it was just a freakish hop,” Crouch said.
Berkmar had at least two shots carom off the post, including one in the first half by Rene Acosta, who along with Jose Salmeron, Ernesto Cardenas and Martin Lugo and others kept Fukartas on his toes, especially in the second half.
“We had some chances, but we just didn’t capitalize and that came back to haunt us,” Crouch said. “We felt like we did what we wanted to do, especially in the midfield. We controlled the play. The inter-passing was there. We just didn’t put the cherry on top [by scoring].
“We had a tough time creating chances and Dacula is a tough team. They’re a great squad and we knew that going in it was going to be a battle and it was. But I’m proud of my boys. The played hard for 80 minutes and that’s what you’ve got to do. We’ve got 13 seniors and they played their guts out. It was a great night of soccer.”
In the girls game, Katie McAdams scored three goals for Dacula in a 6-0 win over Berkmar.
Berkmar held its Senior Night festivities in between games Tuesday, with seniors and family members honored at midfield.
Berkmar players honored: Crouch was named coach of the year and Salmeron midfielder of the year by coaches in Region 8-AAAAA, Berkmar assistant coach William Torres reported Tuesday. Also named to the all-region team were defender Kwadwo Twumasi and forwards Lugo and Acosta.