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Statesboro soccer makes bid for state playoffs


Last season, the boys and girls soccer squads at Statesboro High were forced to the sidelines to look on as the postseason began. With the addition of a handful of noted soccer powers into Region 2-AAAA, the Blue Devils teams — which had both advanced to the 2010 state playoffs — couldn’t keep pace and didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

This time around, The Blue Devils refused to be denied.

Despite the region being as strong as ever, both of Statesboro’s squads showed a renewed energy and will both participate in region playoffs this evening.

The boys, after finishing fourth in their sub-region, will travel to Brunswick to take on Glynn Academy — champion of 2-AAAA’s south sub-region — at 7 p.m. As the third place finisher in their sub-region, the Lady Devils will travel to Wayne County for a 5:30 p.m. matchup. The winners of both games will secure a spot in the Class-AAAA state playoffs while the losers will be done for the season.

"This is where we set out to be," SHS boys coach Nick Thrower said at practice Monday. "We’ve been focusing on playing hard and performing well in each game. I think that we’ve played well and deserve the chance that we now have."

"We’re definitely an improved team from the beginning of the year," girls coach Brian Thomas said. "Before the season started, we set a goal that we wanted to be here. We’ve accomplished that, but I know that we also believe that we can go farther from here."

Both teams will have their hands full if they want to advance.

In addition to winning its sub-region, Glynn Academy has racked up an impressive 14-0-1 record and a No. 4 state ranking. The Red Terrors have their eyes set on a title run, but the Devils will have upset on their minds.

"Obviously (Glynn) is a very good team," Thrower said. "But that doesn’t change what we do. We’re a team that prides ourselves on solid defense. We’ll keep that strategy and we’ll have to execute it well to compete."

Statesboro will try to become the second local team to knock off a state-ranked squad this season. Three weeks ago, Southeast Bulloch downed Savannah Christian — then ranked No. 6 in Class-A.

The Lady Devils will also have to find a road victory if they want to keep their season going.

In the midst of a breakout season, Wayne County fought off Richmond Hill late in the season for second place in the south sub-region and the right to host today’s playoff. Statesboro must make the long trek to Jesup, but remains confident that victory is within reach.

"We’ve had some big road wins," Thomas said. "We beat Savannah Christian down in Savannah and got a big region win at Lakeside when we really needed it. We also put up a good fight at Greenbrier."

The Devils enter the game with experience — both on the roster and against Wayne County.

"We had a chance to play Wayne in the preseason and I’ve seen a lot of tape on them," Thomas said. "We know what they want to do, but the main thing is how we execute. We have a lot of seniors and juniors that have been playing since they were freshmen. They know what it takes to win these big games, and that’s what we’re going to try to do."


Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.