For both the boys and girls soccer teams at Statesboro, the Region 3-AAAA championship is just one win away.
Both teams won a pair of playoff games last week to advance to the title game. The SHS boys host South Effingham at 5:30 p.m. at Womack Field while the Lady Blue Devils travel to Jesup to take on Wayne County.
“There’s been a lot of excitement going around,” SHS boys coach Nick Thrower said. “That win in the semifinals was just huge. Now we have a chance to play for the region. That’s what everyone begins the season playing for and now we get to go out and do it.”
“This has been a crazy season so far,” girls coach Brian Thomas said. “Coming into the year, I thought we had a good chance to be in this position. We’ve had a ton of injuries get in our way, but girls have continued to step up to make it possible for us to keep winning.”
While both teams have reached the region championship game, they have taken drastically different routes to get here.
The Lady Devils (9-6) have been consistent throughout the season. Strong defense — SHS has allowed one goal or less in 11 of 15 games — has set the tone while the offense has registered multiple goals 10 times.
The girls racked up a 4-2 record in sub-region play, but dropped a pair of 3-0 decisions to Wayne County (12-3-2).
As for the boys, things have been much more up-and-down.
Statesboro (7-8) began the season with just two losses in its first nine games, but closed the season with six consecutive losses and was unable to score a single goal in any of the defeats.
The Devils found their stride just in time, demolishing Hephzibah in the first round of the region playoffs before taking down sub-region champion Richmond Academy in the semifinals.
Today’s game against South Effingham (8-6-1) will serve as a high-stakes decisive matchup after the teams split a pair of meetings in the regular season. The Blue Devils cruised to a 2-0 win back on March 8, but the Mustangs bounced back with a 1-0 win in the middle of Statesboro’s slump.
“It’s a long season,” Thrower said. “You want to peak at the right time and I think that’s what we’re doing right now. Breaking through (against Hephzibah) was a great feeling. The floodgates kind of opened up and we look a lot more comfortable now.”
By reaching the championship game, both Statesboro squads have clinched home field advantage for the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The teams are excited to have claimed their spots in the field vying for a state championship, but all focus will be on a possible region title tonight.
“This would be the first region championship in over a decade for the girls,” Thomas said. “It would be great to bring that home.”
“We know that we can do it,” Thrower said. “If we play our best game, I think all of our guys believe that we’re a team that can win a region championship.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.