CORDELE — After just missing on several opportunities in the first half, the Southeast Bulloch Lady Jackets connected on three shots from outside the 18-yard penalty area and defeated Crisp County, 4-1, in the first round of the state Class AAA soccer playoffs.
“We were a little more patient with our shots and struck them more cleanly in the second half,” Coach Kristin Barnhill said. “Overall, I’m pleased with the way we played, but we’re going to have to be much sharper next week in the second round.”
The third seed Jackets will travel to Atlanta next week and face the state’s second-ranked Class AAA side – Greater Atlanta Christian. Greater Atlanta (12-5) mercy-ruled Redan High School in their first-round game on Tuesday, 10-0.
“That’s an excellent side with skill and every position,” Barnhill said. “We’re going to work in practice on compacting our defense and staying very organized. They will exploit any mistake we make.”
Wednesday, SEB controlled possession most of the game, but Crisp got on the board first 15 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead. Senior Shay Buenrostro leveled the score for the Jackets when she took a pass from Emily Barnard and lofted a high shot over the Crisp keeper.
“We were just pressing a little bit, but it’s the playoffs, so I thought we’d calm down in the second half,” Barnhill said.
SEB wasted little time taking the lead for good in the second half. Senior captain and West Georgia University-bound Cole Robertson took control of a bouncing ball at the top of the 18 and launched a left-footed shot, beating the Crisp goalie for a 2-1 at the 35:55 mark of the second half.
A minute later, Autumn Brown made it 3-1, when she booted a strong shot from the right side, again just outside the 18 that found the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Barnard completed the scoring with her 28th goal of the season on a tough angled shot from the right side about 21 yards out.
The Lady Jackets clamped down defensively and Crisp was unable to mount any consistent offensive pressure in the second half.
Southeast Bulloch moves into the second round of the state playoffs for the second time in three years. They defeated Jackson High School on penalty kicks in the 2015 playoffs.
Barnhill knows a formidable opponent is waiting for them next Tuesday in Atlanta. But she relishes the challenge.
“No doubt, we’re a huge underdog,” Barnhill said. “But it gives us a chance to shock the world with an upset. We will be a long shot, but the girls won’t back down from the challenge.”
SEB boys drowned by Crisp offense
The Southeast Bulloch boys team jumped on top 1-0 two minutes into the game, but Crisp County came back to defeat the Yellow Jackets, 7-3, on their home field in Cordele.
Desmond Porter put SEB ahead on a high arching shot about 25 yards from the goal that the Crisp keeper got a hand on, but could not push it over the goal.
Crisp got the equalizer four minutes later after a foul by a Jacket defender gave the Cougars a free kick from about 20 yards out. The kick bounced around in front of the goal before going in. Crisp added two more goals in the next four minutes, to pull ahead 3-1.
Senior captain and leading scorer Andrew Cribbs netted his 12th goal of the season on a brilliant free kick from about 25 yards out to bring the Jackets within 3-2, nine minutes before halftime.
But Crisp made it 4-2 with three minutes to play in the half on the first of three goals the Cougars scored as the result of long throw ins.
The Jackets had two scoring chances early in the second half, but the Cougar goalie made a diving save and another shot went just wide. Crisp took control with two quick goals, for a 6-2 lead.
Jacob Sandhagen scored SEB’s final goal on a shot with 19 minutes to play.
The boys end the season with a 5-11-2 mark.