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Kulp’s goal leads Patriots to first round win

Heritage forward Andre Deas (13) sends a ball down field while North Atlanta’s Nico Marin watches in Saturday’s Class AAAAA first round game. Heritage advanced with a 1-0 victory. Staff photo by Kurt Aschermann Jr.

Heritage forward Andre Deas (13) sends a ball down field while North Atlanta’s Nico Marin watches in Saturday’s Class AAAAA first round game. Heritage advanced with a 1-0 victory. Staff photo by Kurt Aschermann Jr.

The Heritage boys soccer team had a three-day lay off before playing their first-round state playoff game, but it was well worth the wait.

Austin Kulp scored a late-first half goal and No. 3 seed Heritage pitched its fourth shut out of the season in a 1-0 victory over second-seeded North Atlanta in a Class AAAAA state playoff game that because of a weather postponement was moved from Tuesday.

Heritage (13-5), which won an opening round game for the second straight year, will either host Villa Rica or visit Creekview in next week’s round of 16.

The game was scoreless through the first 36 minutes before the visitors picked up the only goal of the day. Kulp received a pass deep in North Atlanta (14-3) territory and it turned into a 1-on-1 situation with keeper Richard Garcia. Garcia came out to challenge the ball, but left too much space and Kulp found the bottom, left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.

The Heritage defense, led by Jonathan Mendez and keeper Connor Domeleski, made it stand up.

North Atlanta had a handful of second-half chances to pick up the equalizer, but the Mendez-fueled defense cleared away several opportunities and Domeleski made two of his six saves on shots by Nico Marin and Joao De Silva during a pivotal six and a half-minute stretch. De Silva, in particular, was a player Heritage focused on.

“He’s gotten better and better all season long,” Heritage coach Brandon Stewart said of the freshman Mendez. “(De Silva) is a great player. The kid is fast and he can crush a ball and we frustrated him all day. Can’t get any better than that.”

Heritage had several chances to add to its lead during the final 40 minutes. Luis Avila was wide on a shot early in the half and late in the half had a shot knocked away by a diving Garcia. The keeper also made two other diving saves on shots by Edder Mendez and Austin McMillan.

Kulp’s goal turned out to be enough, though, and the upstart Patriots are moving on.

“This is a huge win for a young group. They were mentally focused for 80 minutes,” Stewart said. “They’ve grown up this year.”