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Perry smothers, eliminates SHS
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Statesboro's Beto Angeles (17) is surrounded by Perry defenders during the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs on Wednesday at Womack Field. Statesboro lost 3-0. - photo by EDDIE LEDBETTER/staff

    Statesboro battled through a back-and-forth first half of action, but couldn’t keep up the pace late in the game.
    Perry broke a scoreless tie early in the second half, then poured it on in rolling to a 3-0 victory in Wednesday’s first round matchup of the Class AAAA tournament at Womack Field.
    Daniel Ward scored a pair of goals and Bryce Stuckmeyer added another while the Blue Devils (8-10) were never able to crack the defense of the Panthers.
    “It was a tough game for us,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “I think we played hard, but we just weren’t able to get things done. (Perry) was able to get out in front and played a great game.”
    Statesboro kept Perry’s offense at bay in the first half, but missed its chance to take the lead. Joe Wilds tracked down a cross and headed a solid shot on net late in the first half, but Sean Swan sprawled out to make a one-handed save.
    As the game moved into the second half, Perry took control.
    Ward intercepted a pass near midfield, then split two Blue Devil defenders as he raced toward the goal. Without a defender between himself and Ward, SHS goalkeeper Drew Funk couldn’t cut off the shooting angles. Ward sent Funk to the turf with a stutter step, then easily slid a left-footed shot into a wide open net to open up a 1-0 lead.
    With Statesboro sending more players upfield to try and retie the game, the Panthers were able to take advantage with their counterattack.
    Perry intercepted another pass near midfield and several Panthers raced to the net as a long pass was lobbed into the Statesboro box. Funk made a great save as Stuckmeyer redirected the pass toward the goal, but the Perry midfielder stayed on his feet and controlled the rebound, sending the ball into another open net at the 31:30 mark.
    Two minutes later, Ward got behind the Devils’ back line once again to put the game out of reach.
    “After that first goal, we were in the position where we had to gamble,” Thrower said. “That’s the risk you take. We got the ball into their side of the field, but they were able to come back at us and put more goals on the board.”
    Statesboro regained its composure, but the Panthers’ scoring outburst was far too much to recover from. Perry settled back on defense and the Devils mounted just two shots on goal over the last 30 minutes of play.
    With the loss, Statesboro’s season comes to an end. Perry advances to play either Spalding or Westover in next week’s second round action.

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