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One last dance
Friends, rivals, square off one more time
shs seb crop
Statesboro High's Alex Wagner, top, and Southeast Bulloch's LA Anderson wrestle for position during Statesboro's 3-1 victory last season.

    From the outside looking in, Statesboro’s Alex Wagner and Southeast Bulloch’s L.A. Anderson appear to have nothing in common.
    Anderson, a slim and speedy striker sporting a mohawk, and Wagner — standing 6 foot, 2 inches tall — look vastly different.
    However, if you talk to them, they call each other “brothers.”
    In many competitive circles, the pair has become known for their soccer prowess. Both in their senior year, they are star players on their respective high school teams. Both have received scholarship offers to play collegiate soccer and both will face off one last time today as Statesboro will take on Southeast Bulloch at Womack Field.
    Anderson and Wagner created an inseparable bond through their fierce competitions over the years. Going against each other one final time Thursday will be a bittersweet moment, Wagner said.
    “We’ve been playing against each other at SEB and William James, and now we’re doing it in high school. It’s awesome. I love him and I’m excited for him and I’m excited to play against him. It’s going to be kind of sad because I think this is the last time we will play each other,” said Wagner, who will be attending Emory University after graduation. “We’ve gone back and forth a few times. It’s fun going against him and being able to play him.”
    From the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department to Statesboro United and Statesboro Strikers, Wagner and Anderson always had the desire to sharpen their skills on the field. Their mutual desire on the field helped fuel a lifelong friendship.
    Despite their bond and respect for one another, the two didn’t quite get along early in life. In fact, Anderson had no qualms admitting he used to despise his best friend when the two started their soccer journey nearly.
    “We hated each other at first,” Anderson said, laughing. “I started hanging out with his friend and then he got mad so I hated him just because he didn’t like me. We were always the best on the team so we would never pass to each other the whole season.”
    For Wagner, the feeling was mutual.
    “[L.A. Anderson] and Jordan Aubrey became friends when we were young and I didn’t like [Anderson] because I was best friends with Jordan first,” said Wagner, laughing as he recalled his childhood quarrel. “But we both played in Savannah and started spending a lot more time together and that’s when we became closer. We would share a hotel almost every weekend when we would travel. I would ride with his dad and he would ride with my mom and we really bonded.”
    Although Wagner and Anderson are likely to share some laughs at the end of the game Thursday, during the course of action it will be all business.
    Statesboro (11-2-1, 7-1 Region 3-AAAAA) closes out their regular season with Southeast Bulloch. Not only will Thursday night be senior night for SHS, but the Blue Devils will also try to sharpen their skills before the start of the post-season.
    The Yellow Jackets (9-3, 8-0 Region 1-AAA) are coming off a tough 1-0 loss to Wayne County and still have two important region games left to finish out the season against Savannah Arts Academy and Islands High School.
    Bragging rights are also on the line. SEB won 1-0 in 2013 when Anderson and Wagner were just freshmen. Last year the Blue Devils got the better of Southeast Bulloch in a 3-1 victory.
    “I love playing against Alex. Generally when I’m on the field I’m one of the best ones out there, but with Alex that’s not the case. He’s way bigger than me so I have to go in on my tackles way harder,” Anderson, who will be attending King University to play soccer after graduating, said. “Whenever I play against Alex I have to do everything crisp and clean because I know he’ll expose me. It’s a big challenge.
    “It’s kind of a relief. I love Alex but I don’t like playing against him a lot. I don’t know if he goes in harder because it’s me or if he’s just bigger but everytime I go against Alex I feel it.”
    Soccer may be how their bond started, but that’s not all the two enjoy doing in their down time. Singing along to the soundtrack of the hit Disney movie “High School Musical” has become a ritual for the pair.
    “It’s kinda our thing when we’re around. We end up singing it a lot of times, as embarrassing as that is to admit,” Wagner said, laughing. “We were riding up to Savannah one day and my Ipod was on shuffle and one of the [High School Musical] songs came up and I was about to skip it, but [Anderson] was like, ‘hold on what are you doing?’ Ever since then we can both sing every word.”
    Anderson said distance won’t be able to separate the bond he has with Wagner next year. The duo plans to make trips to support each other during the soccer season.
    Thursday night, the pair will try to leave it all out on the field and enjoy the chance to compete against each other one last time.

    Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.