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SHS splits with Effingham County
shs boys crop
Statesboro High's Cristian Garcia, left, vies with Effingham County's Devin Landus for an aerial ball during the first half of Tuesday's Region 3-AAAAA matchup at Womack Field. The Blue Devils and Rebels were tied through the first half before Statesboro charged hard down the stretch to notch its second win over Effingham County in as many games this season. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    After suffering a tough setback last week, the Statesboro Blue Devils are now in control of their own destiny in the region seedings as they took care of business in a 3-0 win over Effingham County Tuesday night.
    Statesboro (10-2-1, 6-1 Region 3-AAAAA) had a slow start to the first half, but scored three times in the final 30 minutes of the game.
    Alex Wagner put in two goals for Statesboro to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead and Carlos Diaz scored with just 12:38 left in the game to put the nail in the coffin.
    Wagner’s first goal at the 29:40 mark in the second half, which was shot through a host of Rebel defenders, was all the Blue Devils needed in their shutout win.
    Statesboro head coach Nick Thrower said his team played uncharastically to start the game.
    “In the first half we were almost trying to do too much. We were playing soccer that we don’t normally play in practice. We were trying to play really direct,” Thrower said. “In the second half, we found comfort in possessing the ball. The second half was about us just playing soccer. Obviously we did.”
    Effingham County played a physical first half with the absence of SHS’s Uche Okafor in the middle.
    Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Rebels won three of their last four games. ECHS also scored 14 goals over that four-game span.
    However, Statesboro’s defense denied the Rebels time and time again.
    “It feels great. It feels wonder actually. We beat a very good team and [Effingham] beat another good team in Richmond Hill 5-4. So to know they scored that many goals against a good team and we didn’t concede anything, it just goes to show how great we are in the back,” said Statesboro’s defender Thomas Sullenger.
    Sullenger, along with senior Ryan Miller had a solid defensive game. Miller proved he wasn’t just a defensive asset as he assisted on the team’s second goal to Wagner.
    Goalkeeper Kyle Altman said he was proud of the way his “brothers” played against ECHS.
    “This is one step to where we’re trying to get our goals at. Effingham is a tough team, but we had our mindset that we were better and we were going to come out with this win,” Altman said. “To me, this team is a band of brothers. We feel like we can trust each other. No matter what the challenge, we’re willing to step up.”
    Sullenger said he’s confident in the way the Blue Devils are playing this season.
    “We’re a band of brothers and you saw it on the field tonight. A 3-0 win. That’s what family does,” Sullenger said, smiling.
    If the Blue Devils win against South Effingham Friday, they will lock up the No.1 seed in the sub-region.


Lady Rebels 1, Lady Devils 0

    Communication, physicality and passion. These are the three facets of the game, among other things, Statesboro High School soccer coach Brian Thomas said his team lacked in a 1-0 region loss to Effingham County Tuesday night.
    “We talked about playing with passion and intensity and we didn’t tonight. Not consistently. We got beat to the ball over and over,” Thomas said. “Give credit to Effingham County. They possessed the ball and made good decisions. They had great communication. Everything we didn’t have.”
    The Lady Blue Devils couldn’t seem to pressure the ball in the first half, eventually resulting in Effingham’s lone goal of the game.
    ECHS’s Savannah Leslie gave the Lady Rebels their first and only goal of the game at the 24:57 mark in the first half.
    Despite constant pressure, Statesboro’s goalkeeper Rachel Wiggins kept the game close with four goal saves in the opening 40 minutes of play.
    “If it wasn’t for her, this game could have been 3-0 or 4-0. She kept us in it with save after save, but we couldn’t generate any offense and we kept giving the ball away,” Thomas said.
    The loss for Statesboro (7-6, 4-3 Region 3-AAAAA) comes on the heels of a 2-0 win over Bradwell Institute Friday.
    Statesboro has just one region game left in the season and could potentially tie for the No. 2 seed in the region with a win over South Effingham.
    The Lady Blue Devils started the first half of the season with a 3-1 region record. The lone loss came at the hands of Richmond Hill.
    “We have got to be more physical and get our girls in the weight room. We need to do the simple things better. Friday is a big game. If we can win there we’re still in the hunt for a No. 2 seed,” Thomas said. “That’s better than last year. Last year we were fighting for a No. 4 seed.”
    In the second half the Lady Blue Devils seemed to find some momentum in the last 10 minutes of the game.
    A formation shift with three strikers up top allowed the Lady Blue Devils to but more pressure on the Lady Rebels’ defense.
    Smith Kaiser had a one-on-one opportunity with 7:55 left to play but just missed in order to tie the game.
    The Lady Blue Devils face South Effingham this Friday for the final region game of the season.