Statesboro couldn’t withstand the firepower of South Effingham, falling 5-1 in Tuesday’s Region 3-AAAA championship game at Womack Field.
Mahamado Camara — on his way to a hat trick — broke loose for a goal 12 minutes into the game and Dillon Smith added another in the first half.
Statesboro responded with an early second half goal, but Camara found the net twice more as the Mustangs ran away.
“You have to give all of the credit to Effingham,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “I thought that we battled hard, but they were just a little better today.”
A swarming and collapsing Mustang defense was able to make things difficult on the Devils’ short passing game throughout the night. Even when Statesboro tried to send long passes down field and over the defense, South Effingham’s back line was able to outrun the SHS forwards and clear the ball out of danger.
Statesboro possessed the ball well, but ran into trouble each time it crossed midfield. The Mustang defense consistently swarmed and cut out the short passes that the Devils attempted to use to work downfield.
“They planned for us well,” Thrower said. “We did some good things, but they took away a lot.”
Statesboro’s defense did a similarly good job of erasing early threats, but gave way with 28 minutes to play in the first half.
The Devils’ back line booted the ball down field in an attempt to clear, but South Effingham quickly regained control. Camara perfectly timed a run toward the goal as a pass was sent back into Statesboro territory.
Camara gathered the pass 25 yards from the goal unopposed and easily beat SHS goaltender Drew Funk.
South Effingham took full control with just over 13 minutes to play in the half. The Mustangs were awarded a free kick from 30 yards out and Alex Gransow placed the ball perfectly onto the right foot of Smith for a 2-0 lead.
With their backs against the wall, Statesboro came into the second half swinging.
Walker Paul Tedders took a free kick from 25 yards out, beating Mustang goalkeeper Billy Heister to pull Statesboro within 2-1 with 34 minutes to play.
“I liked the way we bounced back,” Thrower said. “We played with a lot of heart, but couldn’t quite get things to go our way.”
The excitement was short-lived as South Effingham struck right back.
In a near replay of his first goal, Camara outran the SHS defense to a long pass and got into the clear. A 20-yard strike regained the two-goal lead for South Effingham.
Camara completed his hat trick after dribbling through three SHS defenders for another goal.
Pedro Batista capped the scoring with a blast from 10 yards out with just under nine minutes to play.
With the loss, Statesboro claims a No. 2 seed in the Class AAAA state playoffs. The Devils will host the No. 3 seed out of Region 2-AAAA on May 1.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.