On Wednesday night the Statesboro boys soccer team was trying to join the Blue Devil girls in the Class AAAAA sweet sixteen. The Blue Devils pulled out to a 3-1 lead before seeing Harris County come back to cut the lead to 3-2, but that’s as close as things got as the Blue Devils are moving on.
“I felt we played fantastic, particularly in the first half,” said Statesboro coach David Ball. “I thought we moved the ball around nicely, and moved their defense around. Our intensity let down a little in the second half, but we regained our focus, and came away with the win.”
Statesboro had a few good scoring opportunities early on, but were unable to capitalize.Younoussa Maiga just missed from point blank range. Payne Van Tassel's header was just off the mark, and a pair of free kicks from Caleb Dowden sailed high.
The Blue Devils finally broke through with 35:38 left in the first half. Maiga weaved through a few Harris County defenders and delivered a nice pass to Cole Landing on the right side about 12 yards out. Landing caught the ball out of the air with his right foot, and sent it into the left side of the net, past the keeper for a 1-0 Statesboro lead.
“We were thankful for that first goal, and able to go into the half up 1-0,” Ball said. “We knew the game wasn’t over by a long shot, but getting on the board first is a big help.”
The score remained 1-0 until the 29:33 mark of the second half when Statesboro knocked a ball out of bounds deep in their own territory, Harris County’s Javier Tinoco quickly scooped it up and threw it in while the Blue Devil defenders were not paying attention, and a wide open Guadalupe Vazquez chipped the ball over keeper Patrick Weber tying the game at 1-1.
The Blue Devils wasted no time answering. First Van Tassell split to defenders with a pass to John Desiderio inside the keeper’s box and he tucked it on the right side for the goal to give Statesboro a 2-1 lead.
Less than a minute later the two hooked up for another goal. Van Tassell worked his way down the left side, drawing four defenders, and then found a wide open Desiderio on the right side for the easy goal, and a 3-1 Statesboro lead.
“Payne can definitely help our team scoring the goals, or dishing out the assists,” Ball said. “I’m glad John Desiderio had his shooting boots on tonight for sure. Payne did a great job with position awareness, which is something we talked about before the game.”
Harris County scored with 17:11 left in the game on a goal from about 8 yards away by Tinoco to cut the lead to 3-2.
Statesboro ended up playing the last 11:05 a man down after Will Mackiewicz was issued a red card, but the Blue Devil defense tightened up, and were able to turn away a couple Harris County scoring attempts.
“Right now I’m enjoying this win, but we know we have a tall test ahead of us,” Ball siad. “It’s been a while since Statesboro advanced past the sweet 16, but we are looking forward to giving it our all.”
Statesboro will travel to No. 1 seed Union Grove next week for a Wednesday matchup. The start time is yet to be announced.