After running through their sub-region schedule in impressive fashion, the Statesboro Blue Devils left no doubt as to who the class of Region 3-AAAA is this season.
Statesboro scored three times in the first half and the issue was never in doubt as the Devils (15-2) defeated the Academy of Richmond County by a count of 5-1 Wednesday night at Womack Field to claim the region championship.
“This was a goal we set coming into the year,” SHS coach Nick Thrower said. “We came up a little short last season. I think everyone remembered that and tonight’s score was indicative of how much we wanted this. We wanted it and we earned it.”
The Devils and Musketeers (9-5-4) jockeyed for an advantage throughout the opening minutes, but Statesboro quickly established itself as the better side and started to apply pressure.
With nearly 27 minutes gone in the first half, Alex Wagner gained possession 45 yards out and wove his way through the defense before ripping a shot into the net for a 1-0 SHS lead.
At the 8:47 mark, Emillio Quintero launched a perfect corner kick, finding the head of Owen Hancock for a second Statesboro goal.
ARC responded with a corner kick strike of its own when Duncan Kleinbub headed in a goal with 7:01 left in the first half, but a goal from Pablo Martinez just before halftime restored the two-goal advantage and put Statesboro firmly in control.
“(Martinez’s) goal was huge,” Thrower said. “I think we knew at that moment that the game was ours for the taking.”
The Blue Devils responded as such in the second half.
Instead of nursing its two-goal lead, Statesboro continued to take the fight to ARC.
Just over two minutes into the half, Hector Angeles placed a perfect lead pass on the foot of Wesley Budget, who dribbled into the ARC box and finished off the goal for a 4-1 lead.
Statesboro senior Joe Wiles got in on the act late in the contest, recording the first goal of his career with 8:26 to play to cap off the scoring.
“Everyone who went into the game brought something new,” Thrower said. “It was definitely our A-game.”
Statesboro now moves on to host Westover — No. 4 seed out of Region 1-AAAA — Tuesday at Womack Field in the first round of the state playoffs.
SHS girls get No. 3 seed
Statesboro’s girls got Tuesday’s action off to a good start as they defeated Liberty County 4-0 in the Region 3-AAAA consolation match.
Marlee Burke and Katie Wilson each netted goals in the first half to state the Lady Devils to an early lead before Chelsea Wilson and Ashley Williams tacked on goals of their own to pull away over the final 40 minutes of action.
With the win, Statesboro claimed a No. 3 seed in the upcoming state tournament. The Devils will travel to take on No. 2 Westover Wednesday in Albany.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.