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Statesboro boys and girls bounced out of soccer playoffs
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Tucker High School scored two second half goals to come back to beat Statesboro High School 2-1 and end the SHS girls' soccer season in the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs Tuesday night at Womack Field. 

Gabrielle Cole scored both goals for Tucker in the second half, including the game winner with less than 10 minutes remaining as the Tigers advanced to the second round while Statesboro saw its season end at 10-7-1 on the year.

“I think what hurt us the most is we had to switch in and out a lot because we had a couple of injuries,” said Statesboro Head Coach Sarah Parker. “You get a vibe or a groove and then you have to switch it up. I can’t be mad at how my girls played. They had an amazing season."

Statesboro’s goal came with just 1:21 remaining in the first half. Gracen Adams played a ball into the box on the left side to Mackenzie Hamer. Hamer then dropped the ball to Gabriela Mendez whose shot from 17 yards out went over the Tigers’ goalkeeper and found the back of the net to give Statesboro a 1-0 lead just before halftime.

“We had some great combinations and that was one of those combinations that resulted in what it’s supposed to result in,” Parker said. “It was a great goal for her and we’ve got here for three more years.”

Parker warned her team at halftime that Tucker would come out hungry in the second half and they did, with the Tigers able to create several chances early in the second half that the Blue Devils defense and goalkeeper Demia Hartwell were able to repel. 

However, Tucker was finally able to break through midway through the second half when Cole was on the receiving end of a corner kick and her header from eight yards out got through the SHS defense to level the score at 1-1.

Cole, who had a shot go off the post early in the first half, would get her second of the night with just under ten minutes remaining when Tucker’s Mia Huhtanen was able to create separation from the Blue Devils’ defense and play a through ball down the left to Cole. She was able to hold off a defender and slide her shot past Hartwell to score what turned out to be the game winning goal.

Statesboro was able to create some chances late, but were unable to find the equalizer as Tucker held on for the win.

Parker had high praise for her senior class and the impact they’ve had on the Blue Devil program.

“My seniors, they went out there and worked their butts off and left everything of the last four years on that field,” she said. “I’m emotional leaving them and I know they’re emotional with this being their last season, but they left everything on the field as a whole senior class.”

“I can’t be mad at how my girls played,” Parker said. “They had an amazing season and they did great out there today.” 

While disappointed with the loss, Parker said the players returning will look to build on what the team did in 2024.

“You go out there and give it what you’ve got and at the end of the day, you win some and you lose some,” she said. “We wish Tucker the best on their next game and we’ll just come back next year stronger and take it further than the first round.”

Blue Devil boys  suffer same fate

The Blue Devil boys soccer team’s season came to an end Wednesday afternoon as they fell in the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs 3-0 to the Chamblee Bulldogs at Womack Field.

Chamblee (8-9-1) got on the board early when the Bulldogs were able to get to the endline on the right side. They then cut the ball back to Henry Peacock at the penalty spot where he headed a shot past the SHS (8-8-3) defense to put Chamblee ahead 1-0 with just under 10 minutes gone by.

The Bulldogs would add a second goal 15 minutes later when they were able to draw a foul just outside the penalty area. They sent a low cross into the box where goalkeeper Creighton Horst was able to make a save, but the deflection found the foot of Travis Conner who was able to get his shot through the Blue Devils defense to double the Bulldogs’ lead.

“They had two moments that they took and they had some balls that counced their way and we didn’t,” said SHS Head Coach Jared Simonin. “That’s the game of soccer. Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t and you just have to fight through it.”

Simonin said they made some adjustments at halftime to try to play more balls over the top and he saw that pay dividends as he said the team played better and created more chances in the second half. 

Early in the second half SHS had an opportunity when Jude Powell was able to get open along the right sideline. His cross to the middle found Brayden Bembry 12 yards out but he was unable to get his shot on target.

With 11 minutes remaining SHS had a free kick that Andrik Medina was able to head on target, but the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper was able to make the save.

Chamblee would add a late goal with less than a minute remaining as the Blue Devils were pressing forward trying to mount a comeback.

Even with those changes, Simonin said Chamblee was able to control the center of the field with their midfield and used that to creat opportunities.

Despite the loss, Simonin said Horst and the defensive unit played well in keeping the Blue Devils close and giving them an opportunity to come back.

“They’re all seniors this year so it’s going to be some big shoes to fill next year,” he said. 

The Blue Devils will have a lot of new faces next season as they graduate 10 seniors from the 2024 squad that Simonin said laid the groundwork for what’s to come for SHS soccer.

“When you make the playoffs every year, it becomes the standard that you have to meet and then we’ll start winning playoff games normally and that becomes the standard that we have to meet,” he said. “These seniros have really raised the standard so now, if we don’t make the playoffs, it becomes a bad year for us.”

The Bulloch Academy soccer teams split a pair of games Tuesday evening at Gator Alley. The girls jumped out to an early lead and held on to win 2-0 over St. Andrews, while the guys fell into a hole and had trouble getting on the board as they lost a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to the visiting Saints.

In the girls’ game Bulloch Academy wasted no time scoring as less than a minute into the game Piper Finley scored on a nice corner kick from Addie Becker to give the Gators a 1-0 lead. Toward the end of the first half Rylie Ann Claxton took a pass and sped past the Saint defenders, just getting one past their keeper for a 2-0 advantage.

“I thought getting off to a quick start really helped us tonight,” said Bulloch Academy coach Caitlyn Cofer. “We draw up a few different corner kicks and we changed some things up on the first one and it worked perfectly. I think we really just played the whole game with a lot of heart. We seem to take so much pride playing at home and I wish we could try and do that even more on the road as well.”

The Lady Gators get one step closer to trying to lock up a home state playoff game as they are now 5-4 overall. Up next Bulloch Academy hosts Coastal Home School Friday at 5:30 with the boys playing at 7:30.

For the Bulloch Academy guys a fluke goal by St. Andrews early in the second half proved to be too much to overcome as they fell 1-0 and drop to 6-3 overall and 1-2 in region play. The Gators fought back in the second half and had six shots on goal but were stymied by St. Andrews keeper Ryan Vasata.

“I feel like in the first half we sat back in middle too much and we made some good adjustments in the second half,” said coach Leslie Golden. “I felt like we absolutely dominated the second half and did everything we could to try and tie it up but just came up short. They fought till the last minute and I am very proud of the boys. Our backs are playing well on defense and we have sorted some things out and I think we will be ready for the postseason.”

Elsewhere the Portal Panthers await the state playoffs. The girls are 12-2-1 overall and 10-0 in region play. They will host GA Military April 23 at 6:00. The Panther boys are 6-6-1 and 4-4 in region play. Portal is the No. 3 seed and open up on the road at Lincoln County.

The Southeast Bulloch girls are the No. 2 seed in their region and open things up Thursday at 5:00 against Spalding County. The boys are the No. 4 seed and travel to West Laurens for the opening round of the state Friday at a yet to be determined time.