The Statesboro Blue Devils easily cleared their first postseason hurdle with an impressive 7-0 victory over Westover last week.
Tonight, the top-seeded Devils host Jonesboro for a 7 p.m. kickoff for the right to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“We were very happy with how we performed last week,” SHS coach Justin Thrower said. “Our goal all year was to try and win our region and make the state playoffs. Now we’re setting our sights on continuing to play well and progressing as far as we can.”
The best news for the Devils (14-2) is that they’ll get to continue their postseason run at the friendly confines of Womack Field. Armed with a loud and supportive crowd, Statesboro has won all nine of its home matches this season by a combined score of 41-7.
Tonight’s game will also feature a Devils squad that might have legs a bit fresher than the Cardinals (10-4).
Inclement weather throughout much of the state last week caused Jonesboro’s first round game — a 2-1 win over Mary Persons — to be pushed back to the weekend.
“Having a whole week off definitely came at a good time for us,” Thrower said. “There are a couple of nagging injuries that we’ve been able to rest and we’ve still been able to have some good practices.”
Jonesboro’s later first round game also allowed Thrower the opportunity to scout the Devils’ opponent.
Scouting reports and game film can become scarce when so few teams remain and are often facing off against one another for the first time. By taking in the Cardinals’ win, Thrower has been able to better prepare his squad for what they’ll face.
“(JHS) is a good team,” Thrower said. “They possess the ball well. They definitely need to be respected for the scoring opportunities they’re able to create.”
Like their opponent, the Devils have shown the ability to consistently control the ball and the pace of action. But Statesboro also has the ability to strike quickly and constantly from anywhere on the field.
The Devils’ back line shuts down threats while creating counterattacks while the midfield constantly presses over midfield.
Forwards Hector Angeles and Wesley Budgett can challenge any defense, but the entire team has shown the ability to get in on the scoring off of corners, throw-ins, and set pieces.
“We’re going to take a very direct approach in this game,” Thrower said. “I think there are some gaps where we can attack. (Jonesboro) has some guys who might press too far forward when they have the ball and that’s a spot where we can attack.”
Today’s winner will advance to play either Southeast Whitfield or Lumpkin County Friday for the right to advance to the state Final Four.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.