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Liberty hands SHS region loss
031213 SHS SOCCER 01
Statesboro's Walker Paul Tedders, top left, outleaps Liberty County's Angel Labron to send a header towards the goal during the first half on Tuesday at Womack Field.

    The Statesboro boys tore up the soccer field in the first few weeks, but have suddenly hit a snag.
    The Blue Devils didn’t suffer a defeat in their first five matches, but have dropped two in a row after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Liberty County Tuesday at Womack Field.
    After trailing for over an hour of game time, the Devils tied the game on a Wesley Budget header with 11:45 to play, only to see the Panthers add the game-clinching goal on a corner kick with 7:30 remaining.
    Worse still, the Devils controlled just about every aspect of the game.
    Statesboro (4-2-1, 3-1 Region 3-AAAA) outshot the Panthers (3-3, 2-1) by a 23-10 margin, but Liberty goalkeeper Corey Lazenby was up to the challenge.
    “That’s just soccer for you,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “I feel like we dominated this game everywhere but on the scoreboard. This is a tough loss, but it’s one to learn from. Sometimes you can do most things right and it’s still not enough.”
    Statesboro’s tough luck started just four minutes into the game.
    Liberty’s Justin Brooklyn gained possession near midfield and lofted a lazy shot into the box, but the ball knuckled as it hung in the air, bouncing off the hands of SHS goalkeeper Milos Raznatovic and making its way into the back of the net.
    Still, the Devils soldiered on.
    Statesboro controlled the remainder of the first half, but couldn’t quite break through the Panthers’ back line for an open look at the net.
    The Devils earned a free kick late in the half, but Walker Paul Tedders fired wide of the goal.
    The struggle continued into the second half as the Devils won most contested balls in the air and consistently snuffed out any Liberty runs. Sensing the chance to hand Statesboro its first region loss, the Panthers collapsed their defense every time the Devils penetrated into a threatening position.
    Statesboro fired several shots from the outside that found their way through the defense, but Lazenby was constantly waiting to scoop up the threat.

Lady Devils rack up another win
    In Tuesday’s first game, the Statesboro girls took an early lead and thoroughly dominated possession and the pace of play in notching a 3-0 victory over Liberty County.
    Midfielder Sarah Brown struck from 25 yards out early in the first half to put the Lady Blue Devils (5-2, 3-1 Region 3-AAAA) in front. The early goal was all of the offense that goalkeeper Destinee Lanier needed as the junior recorded her fifth shutout of the season.
    “Destinee has done a great job this season,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “She was on top of everything today and our defense did a good job to make sure that she didn’t have to do too much.”
    With 23 minutes to play, Brown added another goal via penalty kick. The Lady Panthers (1-4, 0-3) were whistled for a hand ball in the box on an SHS penalty kick and Brown easily slipped her shot into the right side of the net to extend the lead.
    Three minutes later, Alli Wallace redirected a shot from point blank range to put the game out of reach.
    “I liked that we stayed aggressive,” Thomas said. “We couldn’t pull away early on, but we didn’t settle for a one-goal lead or let up with our intensity.”
    With the win, the Devils sweep the season series from Liberty. The Devils recorded a 2-0 win on Feb. 22 in Hinesville.
    Both Blue Devils squads will take a break from region play this weekend as they compete in the Tournament of Champions at Jekyll Island.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.