By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sensational Senior Night
Statesboro High's Isabella Gutierrez, right, draws first blood as she gets past New Hampstead defender Hannah Soto for a score in the first half Thursday.

    For the Statesboro ladies, it would have been effortless to look ahead to their de facto region title game against Wayne County next week.
    A win next Tuesday would give the Lady Blue Devils their first region title since 1999, and considering the first time Statesboro played New Hampstead the game ended in a 5-1 SHS win, it would have been easy to not give Thursday’s matchup it's due credence.
    However Statesboro clearly didn’t let a looming matchup in Jesup affect their performance as the Lady Blue Devils easily took care of New Hampstead 9-0 on senior night for three of the ladies on the pitch.
    “We knew this wasn’t going to be a top of the line team, but we talked pregame about how our performance needed to stay consistent,” said head coach Brian Thomas. “We couldn’t afford for that to slip going into Wayne.”
    New Hampstead has struggled through its regular season. Their only wins have come to lowly Beach, Johnson and Woodville-Tompkins and region games have beentough to keep close.
    And it didn’t take long for Statesboro to start piling on. Within the first 10 minutes Isabella Gutierrez had two goals — both off passes from Smith Kaiser. The first goal came off a steal by Kaiser, who slotted a through ball behind the defense for Gutierrez to easily put into the back corner.
     Sarah Gagel would score not one but two goals in her final regular season home game as a Blue Devil. The first came off a deflected shot by Kaiser, where Gagel came in to pounce on the loose ball to make it a 4-0 game. Then, near the end of the first half, she’d heave a long prayer straight at the keeper, who saw the ball slip right through her hands for Gagel’s second score of the night.
    “The underclassmen were really making a point to get those girls the ball tonight,” Thomas said. “That was really cool for me to see as a coach.”
    To add to her solid midfield play and two assists, Kaiser notched a goal of her own in the 24th minute off a long shot teed up by Gagel. Jordan Palmer would find the goal in the first half as well to make it a 6-0 halftime lead for the girls — far ahead of their pace from the first matchup with New Hampstead.
    But Gagel wouldn’t be the only senior to find the net. In the second half the other two seniors got their chance, most notably Amanda Brown who’d score the final two goals of the game. Ashley Williams would score in the 49th minute to help complete the “senior hat trick”, which couldn’t have happened on a better night.
    “We’re able to possess the ball tonight for long periods of time, which is good for confidence,” Thomas said. “But tonight we didn’t have to defend as well, so there’s a good and bad side to playing a game like this before Wayne.”
    What was more impressive than the nine goals was the shot differential from both teams. Statesboro had 33 shots compared to New Hampstead’s two. Outside of the nine goals another ten were on target, building some offensive confidence before the aforementioned showdown with Wayne County next week.

SHS boys run away with win
    Playoff bound with a postseason home game locked in, the Statesboro boys soccer team could very easily coast through the rest of its season.
    However a 9-0 win had no sign of the Blue Devils trying to slow down, which head coach David Ball reaffirmed by saying the mentality of this team is to keep pushing ahead like the region title is still in sight. If Statesboro were to slow down for any reason, it certainly wouldn’t behoove them come the first round of the state playoffs in two weeks.
    “Our mindset every game is to get better,” Ball said. “My mindset is that we will make the playoffs from the beginning of the year, so every game is preparing us for the playoffs.
    If there was a team Statesboro could have taken their foot off the gas against, New Hampstead would have been the prime candidate in region 2-AAAAA. At 2-9 and 0-7 in region play, the Phoenix have even struggled to field a team this year at certain points. As a matter of fact the first time New Hampstead was supposed to play Statesboro the game ended in a forfeit because the Phoenix couldn’t field enough players.
    The 14 players New Hampstead brought to Womack Field Thursday were unable to handle the constant peppering of shots Statesboro delivered from the opening minute. Statesboro looked like a volume shooter in basketball, someone like JR Smith or Dion Waiters in the NBA — constantly jacking up shots and hoping at least 40 percent of them fall.
    To Statesboro’s credit in the first half they would have shot the “3 ball” at a 42 percent clip, as they scored five goals on 12 shots. The first two came in the first four minutes of the game, leading to New Hampstead pulling their keeper in favor of a new body.
    “We gave the guys the green light tonight for sure,” Ball said. “We’d been a little timid earlier in the season to take shots, so I told them to let it go tonight.”
    The first goal happened when the keeper misplayed a pass over the face of goal, allowing the ball to get behind him for senior Malik Prowell to appropriately punch it in on his senior night. Not a minute later Dillon Jones chipped a pass from Mercer Tetters 12 yards out perfectly over the keeper to make it 2-0.
    Following a deflected own goal to make it 3-0, Manny Rodriguez would add to the senior tally by slamming in a volley after Nash Welch intercepted a clearance out of New Hampsteads box. Welch placed the ball right where Rodriguez could hit it, and within 14 minutes it was 4-0 Blue Devils.
    Punctuating the first half was Kole Landing, who knocked in his first varsity goal ever after a poetic back heel pass by Luis Figueroa with 20 seconds to spare to make it a 5-0 half. Rodriguez would add two more, then Will Mackiewicz and Younoussa Maiga would each notch goals before the clock struck zero, but it was clear after the first 12 minutes the game was firmly in Statesboro’s control.
    “I started all ten of my seniors tonight because they earned that right from day one,” Ball said. “They’re great role models on and off the field, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group in my first year.”
    The night was rather boring for keeper Kyle Aultman, who on his senior night didn’t have to make a single save on account New Hampstead got off two shots which didn’t even cross the face of goal. Give credit to the Statesboro defense, who didn’t allow New Hampstead to collect any sort of meaningful run all night.
    Now all that stands left between Statesboro (9-3, 5-2) and the postseason is a matchup with Wayne County (9-7-2, 3-4) in Jesup at at 7:30 on Tuesday.