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Blue Devils fall in first round of state playoffs
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Statesboro High's Alex Wagner, bottom, gets physical with Lakeside-Evans defenders Davis Williams, left, and Will O'Gorman during the second half of Tuesday's sate playoff game.

    With less than five seconds to play trailing by one goal, Mercer Tedders’ corner kick found its target — like he’s done so many times this year. During the regular season, the Blue Devils have scored off of such set ups.
    However, Tuesday’s game against Lakeside High School wasn’t the regular season. It was the opening round of the AAAAA GHSA state playoffs. Statesboro’s final shot went wide, effectively ending the Blue Devils season in a 4-3 loss.
    “It’s just incredibly unfair for us not to sink that in the last few second of the game, but that’s the game. That’s soccer. We know that, we understand that and we move on,” said SHS soccer coach Nick Thrower. “We were a goal down with less than two minutes left to play. I feel like a lesser team just would have kicked the ball around and just kicking it forward, but we stayed with our consistent game.”
    Lakeside’s Derek May scored a go-ahead goal with just 4:11 left to play in the second half to put the Panthers up 4-3.
    Before May’s goal, the Blue Devils started the game just how they wanted—fast. Alex Wagner put in Statesboro’s first goal within the first 10 minutes of the game.
    The Blue Devils kept the Panthers’ offense off balance, but with seven minutes to go in the first half Ar Daoudi tied the game up 1-1.
    Three minutes later, Jeremy Irsik would give LHS its first lead of the game.
    “This was a case of just fighting it out offensively. We kind of threw defensive strategy out of the window and just went to attack, attack and attack. Lakeside had the same strategy,” said Thrower after his team’s opening round defeat. “I thought for neutral fans, this would be an incredible game to watch.”
    In the second half down 2-1, Statesboro came out clicking on all cylinders. Tedders scored a goal in the first three minutes of the second half, followed by Wagner’s second goal just two minutes later to put SHS up 3-2.
    Nonetheless, the lead for the Blue Devils would be short lived. In typical shootout fashion, Lakeside would score again thanks to a Michael Takats goal.
    Thrower said his seniors had a “successful” season and will look to this year’s freshman and junior varsity team to step up next season.
    “This is motivation for our freshman team. They saw how hard our seniors fought this season. How strong they are, how tough they are. This team and this group of seniors really left a strong mental legacy,” Thrower said. “The kids coming up have big shoes to fill and as a coaching staff we have to help fill that and go beyond. The challenge for those younger kids is asking them, ‘how are you training now to be better than this team?’”