As expected, Columbia County is well-represented in the Georgia High School Association state soccer playoffs, which get underway this week.
The boys and girls teams from Greenbrier and Lakeside all earned state playoff berths, but joining the usual suspects this year are the Harlem Bulldogs.
By finishing second in the Region 3-AAA tournament last week at Academy of Richmond County Stadium, the Dogs punched a state playoff ticket for the first time since 1995.
"We have eight seniors of the team, and six of them have been playing for four years. They've worked hard, so it's nice to see them make it to the state playoffs," Harlem coach George Berry said.
Harlem whipped Westside 4-1 last Wednesday at ARC Stadium, as senior Lucas Frentzel scored two goals and tallied two assists to lead the Dogs to the region championship contest against Richmond Academy.
"That was the first time all season that everyone on the team was healthy," Berry said.
The win over Westside clinched a state playoff berth, but the title bid ended Friday night in the Region 3-AAA finals, where Richmond Academy rolled over the Dogs 6-0.
Harlem (10-8-1) now enters the Class AAA state playoffs as a No. 2 seed. The Bulldogs travel to Central Macon High School for first-round action Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Lakeside Panthers (12-3-1) and Greenbrier Wolfpack (14-2) opened the state playoffs at home Tuesday night.
The Lady Panthers (13-3) kick off state action today at 6 p.m. with a home match against Rockdale County High School. Meanwhile, the Greenbrier girls (12-4-1) take the pitch today at the Brierpatch. The Lady Pack faces Salem High School at 5:30 p.m.
As Region 3-AAAA champs, the Lakeside teams take on No. 4 seeds in the first-round matches. Also, should the Panthers and Lady Panthers get on a roll in subsequent rounds, they would have to travel only in the state semifinals. The Lakeside boys have lost in the state semis the past two seasons.
As the No. 2 seeds from Region 3-AAAA, Greenbrier's squads drew tougher brackets in the state tournament. Both teams, however, seem ready to make strong runs.
"We've had some good practices, and we like our chances," Lady Wolfpack coach Alex Heider said. "In the state playoffs it doesn't matter if your record in 18-0 or 8-10. Every team is 0-0 right now."
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