Rome's Gonzalo Lemus vs. Habersham Central

Rome junior Gonzalo Lemus battles for control of the ball during the Wolves’ first-round playoff game against Habersham Central at Barron Stadium on Friday.

When the clock struck 0:00 Friday at Barron Stadium, the Rome Wolves’ 2021 season officially ran out in heartbreaking fashion, a 3-2 stunner to the Habersham Central Raiders.

As Rome’s players walked off the field for the final time, the emotions plastered on the faces said it all: frustration, disbelief, heartbreak.

“(I told them) that I was very proud. They gave it their all,” Wolves head coach Luis Goya said. “They put (in) their heart, ... their effort. We have what it takes in order to win games, but unfortunately, it’s a game. When it’s over, one team wins, one team goes home. There was a lot of emotion, all over the place. A lot of tears because this team has been working so hard since November for this moment.”

Rome got out to the best start possible, scoring less than 60 seconds into the contest courtesy of senior Ivan Orellana.

But like clockwork, Habersham Central fired right back to tie the game 1-1 less than two minutes into the game.

The Raiders would tack on another goal with under 10 minutes gone in the contest and held a 2-1 halftime lead.

About halfway through the second half, Rome was awarded a free kick and Orellana cashed in on the bounce from about five yards out to knot the game 2-2.

However, Habersham Central had the final response of the night, tallying its third goal just seven minutes after Orellana’s second strike.

Rome’s final record goes down as 15-5 overall, including a second-place finish in its first year in Region 5-AAAAAA.

“It was sad, but at the same time, it was a wake-up call that what we’re doing is not enough,” Goya said. “We talked a lot about what’s missing and what needs to be done because this town deserves it.”

Goya said that missing something is a topic to address and work on during the offseason.

“The only thing we can do is work even harder,” Goya said. “That could be the missing point.”

For Rome’s seniors, they have played their final game at Barron Stadium in a Wolves uniform. Goya said it was a special class.

“It was the class that actually defeated Dalton JV two years ago,” Goya said. “They have an amazing work ethic that makes us so successful. They put so much hard work (in) just ... to make sure we show to the town what we have. But they have a big role in this story of Rome High School soccer.”

For Rome’s returners, Goya’s message to them was a simple one.

“Don’t forget this moment,” Goya said. “The seniors put it all out there. There needs to be leadership, there needs to be work ethic ... because they are carrying on for the next generation. We’re not going to stop until we go all the way to the end.”

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