published Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Georgia soccer stars edge Tennessee, 2-1

Georgia's Jose Ruiz chases the ball during the Tennessee v. Georgia all-star boys soccer match at Finley Stadium on Friday.
Georgia's Jose Ruiz chases the ball during the Tennessee v. Georgia all-star boys soccer match at Finley Stadium on Friday.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.

Instead of having to coach against the players on the Georgia all-star soccer team Friday, Calhoun coach Matt Rice was able to assemble them and turn them loose together.

It took a little manufacturing and a slight bit of being at the right place at the right time, but Georgia's Jose Ruiz scored a header in the 69th minute that held up for a 2-1 victory over Tennessee's recent graduates at Finley Stadium. The win breaks the four-match boys' win streak for Tennessee, which still leads the series 8-2.

Ruiz, who prepped at Murray County, took the most valuable player honor for Georgia, while Chattanooga Christian goalkeeper Jonathan Crossman made some nice saves in the first half and was the Tennessee MVP.

"It was fun getting to coach these guys this year," Rice said. "Soccer has been growing for a while in northwest Georgia: There are some good leagues and kids are playing in various leagues, and it shows."

Tennessee took a 1-0 edge on a goal by Cleveland's Anfernee Avila 19 minutes in, but Georgia -- which had been the stronger offensive team in the early going -- tied the match when Northwest Whitfield's Miguel Villa found Coahulla Creek's Pedro Garcia for a goal early in the second half.

After Ruiz's goal, Tennessee started to apply some pressure in its attack -- led by former Notre Dame standout Tyler Robertson and McMinn County's Nelson Cardona -- in an attempt to equalize, but Georgia was able to fend off the charges and claim the regulation victory.

"It was fun to be a part of this," said Cleveland coach John Brose, who directed the Tennessee stars. "It's not about me. It's about the guys, and it was a good way to finish their high school careers -- like icing on the cake."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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