South Effingham County High Coach Paul Richards was as proud of his soccer team as he has been all season, as the Mustangs defeated the Thomson High Bulldogs 3-2 in a single-elimination Region 3-AAA playoff game last Wednesday night at The Brickyard in Thomson.
"We knew the game would probably be a close one and it was," Coach Richards said after the game. "We're just glad we came out on top."
Thomson, meanwhile, has seen their soccer season come to an end with an overall record of 10-4 - their best effort in school history.
The Mustangs, now 7-7 overall this season, will advance to the first-round of the Class AAA Soccer State Playoffs.
They likely will play a team from around the Columbus area, Coach Richards said. Their official opponents had not been decided as of Wednesday night.
At any rate, Coach Richards is just glad his team finds themselves in the state playoffs.
He noted that anytime a team makes it that far, "it's a great accomplishment."
Thomson Coach Barry Arrington said he believes the Spring break hurt his team.
"We didn't play as well as we've been playing as a team," Coach Arrington said. "We played flat a lot of the time. Several of our key players seemed tired or sluggish."
Thomson managed to score the first goal of the game. Sophomore Jay Bieltz kicked the ball past South Effingham senior goalkeeper Eon Anderson with a little more than 32 minutes to play in the first half.
It was a little more than 15 later before the Mustangs knotted the score at 1-1. Craig Glastie was able to sneak a shot past Thomson goalkeeper Cullen Wallace.
As it turned out, the Mustangs suddenly scored two more goals - all three scores coming within the span of five minutes. With 15:39 left in the first half, South Effingham's Marshall Butler with a little assistance from Jeffery Hancock scored his first of two goals in the game. It allowed the Mustangs to go up 2-1.
Marshall came right back a little later and scored again to lift the Mustangs to a 3-1 lead - one they never relinquished. Assisting him on the play was teammate John Browning.
Early in the second half, Thomson scored what would turn out to be their last goal of the game and the season. Matthew McEver got a shot past Anderson to make it a 3-2 game with 34:33 left in the game.
Even though Thomson attempted to score several more times, it was Anderson dominating with big key plays.
"That's what he has done all season for us," Coach Richards said of his goalkeeper. "He has kept us in every match."
Coach Richards said it's now up to his team to set new expectations.
"We're capable of making a run in the state playoffs, but our team must play with a lot of heart and determination from this point on," he added.
Members of the Thomson High School Bulldogs' varsity soccer team included: Jay Bieltz, Alex Quarles, Pop Chambliss, Dalton Herrington, Bryce Hawkins, Stuart Strouble, Adam Dent, Cullen Wallace, Josh Unokur, Matt McEver, Jorge Rosales, Nick Sobik, Cody Atkins, Sebastian Bechstedt, Justin Bestross, Marc Ricketson, Ronney Gant, Jackson Reddick, David Vasquez, Daymon Linkous, Anthoney Brown, Mat Neal, Quitney Hordens, Jeffery Hadden and Kevin Turner.