(4) Westover (9-7) at (1) Statesboro (13-2)
5:30 p.m., Today
The Statesboro Blue Devils spent the entire regular season regularly rolling over competition before powering their way to a Region 3-AAAA championship last week.
Today at 5:30 the top-seeded Devils (13-2) begin postseason play as they welcome Westover (9-7, Region 1-AAAA No. 4 seed) to Womack Field.
Statesboro comes into state playoff action riding high on an eight-game winning streak and outscored its three region tournament opponents by a combined score of 14-2. With a squad that boasts 13 seniors — most of whom are returning starters from last season’s state playoff squad — the Devils are aiming high.
“We’re definitely excited to start the state playoffs,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “Winning region and playing well down the stretch has our guys playing with a lot of confidence.
“We’ve been saying all year that we want to take it from one game to the next. Now we’re in the playoffs and you either win or that’s it.”
Statesboro will look to keep up its high-flying ways as Hector Angeles, Pablo Martinez, and Alex Wagner are all equal threats to either find the net or set up a teammate with an open shot. Then again, just about everyone on the field is a threat as the Devils have been held scoreless just once and have scored three or more goals on 10 occasions.
One of Statesboro’s hottest players at the moment is Owen Hancock. Usually patrolling the back line from his defensive position, Hancock scored three times off of set pieces during the region tournament.
Staring down the Devils will be Westover, which had some issues before heating up down the stretch to claim its region’s final playoff spot.
The Patriots dropped seven straight in the middle of the season, only to save their postseason hopes by winning their last three.
Westover’s offense has been similarly hot and cold. The Patriots have scored one or fewer goals nine times, but have also hit the six-goal mark four times.
“Westover definitely has the ability to hurt teams,” Thrower said. “They’re a very solid team for a fourth-seed. That’s why we’ve been keeping practices pretty high-paced and competitive.”
The winner of today’s game will take on either Mary Persons or Jonesboro in the second round. If Statesboro wins, it will again get to play at home – where it is unbeaten this season.
No. 3 Statesboro at No. 2 Worth County
Statesboro’s girls will be looking to get at least as far as last year’s squad which reached the second round, but will have to get thing started on the road.
The Lady Devils (6-10) travel to Sylvester to take on the Lady Rams (5-5-1) in their first round match on Wednesday.
For a second consecutive season, injuries have plagued Statesboro and many players have had to throw themselves into new positions and take on new responsibilities in order to adapt.
The Devils struggled through a tough region schedule, but won its opening round game in the region tournament to clinch a spot in state and cruised to a 4-0 win over Liberty County in last week’s region consolation game.
“That win is a good high note for us to enter the playoffs on,” SHS coach Brian Thomas said. “I feel like we possessed the ball better and passed better against Liberty. We need to do the same against Worth.”
Last year’s Lady Devils were a bigger scoring threat for opponents, but that team was full of players getting their first taste of state competition.
This year’s squad will have to grind harder for goals and won’t enjoy any home field advantage, but knows what it takes to win so late in the season.
“I think we feel pretty comfortable,” Thomas said. “We know what we’re getting into. It’s easy to get distracted by a long road trip or looking at the playoff bracket. These girls have been through it already. I think we’ll be focused and prepared. We just need to execute our game.”
The winner of Wednesday’s game will have a second round matchup against either Mary Persons or top-seeded Spalding.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.