Over the last two weeks, the only thing hotter than the Statesboro afternoons has been South Georgia Tormenta FC.
Statesboro's newest squad is quickly fitting in to the town's reputation of winning programs and edged itself over the .500 mark for the first time in franchise history Saturday night with a convincing 3-0 romp over the West Virginia Chaos at Eagle Field.
“Three goals. A shutout. Good balance of play,” Tormenta coach Ben Freakley said. “You've got to be proud of that. ”
South Georgia clinched a victory in the dying minutes of Thursday's home contest, but didn't have to wait nearly as long Saturday evening.
Tormenta took control of the pace early and threatened several times before Sam Lofts finished in the 18th minute to gain a 1-0 advantage. Battling tired legs and unrelenting heat during their second game in three days, South Georgia continued to threaten and dominated possession before taking it's one-goal lead into the break.
Fresh out of the locker room, Tormenta got right back to business. The scoring chances kept coming leading up to the 49th minute of action when Nico Rittmeyer — denied of a pair of goals due to offside calls in a game two weeks ago – found the ball in the box and chipped it over the Chaos goalkeeper to double Tormenta's lead.
“We wanted to start fast. (West Virginia) is at the bottom of the table and we knew they'd be trying hard for a win,” Tormenta defender Ayao Sossou said. “But this is a tough place to win. The weather is tough, the fans are loud and we're playing well.
“The confidence is just sky-high right now. We're playing exactly how we want to play. Now we just need to keep it up.”
Stranded in last place in the South Atlantic Division and sensing another loss, West Virginia picked up the pace and finally started to threaten as the second half wore on. More of the play shifted to Tormenta's half of the field, but a solid back line kept any Chaos possessions from ending with a dangerous shot on net.
As West Virginia continued to press the issue, Tormenta's defense held before launching a counter attack that put the game on ice.
In the 81st minute, Tormenta wrestled the ball away in its own half and started a push back through the aggressive West Virginia midfield. With just a few well-weighted passes, Tormenta was deep in the attacking third. A low cross from Reed Norton found its way to Eli Dent, who ripped a low shot into the back of the net to make it 3-0.
After Dent's strike, the game was in hand. All that remained was the question of Tormenta keeping its shutout streak intact. South Georgia won a pair of games in North Carolina via shutout before blanking Southern West Virginia 1-0 Thursday night.
The scoreless streak was put in jeopardy during Saturday's stoppage time as the Chaos were awarded a penalty kick, but Alex Guerra dove hard to his right and parried away a low shot to bring on the final whistle and put the bow on a fourth consecutive shutout.
“I kind of knew where I was going on the shot,” Guerra said. “I thought I read it right from how he was approaching the kick. I dove and the ball was right there.”
“We've had five shutouts in eight games,” Freakley said. “To end this one like we did is phenomenal and I'm so happy for (Guerra). He came up big, but our entire team has to play well to earn these shutouts.”
With four straight wins, Tormenta has shot into contention for the top of the division standings. Next week's schedule won't bring many surprises from a matchup standpoint as South Georgia immediately repays this week's visits by West Virginia squads with a return visit to the Mountain State.
Tormenta will face the Chaos once again Thursday night before visiting Southern West Virginia next Saturday.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.