Playoff time has arrived. Man, did it hurt.
The first round of the soccer state playoffs were cruel to several local teams. Columbia County sent six high school soccer teams to the state tournament's first round this week. Four of those teams saw their seasons come to an end.
The losing teams, Lakeside's boys and girls, Evans' girls and Greenbrier's girls, combined to allow 19 goals and score only two.
Now for the good news: Others survived. Greenbrier's boys and Harlem's girls are still alive with first-round wins.
Now for the really good news.
Greenbrier has the easiest path to a home state championship game in the history of the program.
No pressure, Wolfpack boys, but after Wednesday's first-round play, it seems everything is lined up to go your way in the Class AAAA state tournament.
Lakeside-Dekalb, the No. 4 seed out of Region 6-AAAA, upset Region 7-AAAA No. 1 seed Dalton by a score of 3-2 on Wednes-day. That upset ensured Greenbrier would play the rest of their games at home, including a possible state championship game at the Brierpatch.
That's right. Greenbrier holds a No. 1 seed, and every random tie-breaker through the state quarterfinals, semifinals and finals to ensure that, as long as the Wolfpack keep winning, they won't have to travel at all in the state tournament.
As if that wasn't enough, Greenbrier also won't face a ranked opponent until the state semifinals at the very earliest. There, they'll most likely face No. 1 McIntosh, the only team Greenbrier has lost to this year. It was an overtime shootout loss that the Wolfpack would love to avenge.
So let's not hand the state title to Greenbrier just yet. Plenty could happen between now and May 12. Sixteen teams still have a shot at the title. But those other 15 teams don't have the view from the driver's seat that the Wolfpack do right now.
The next step toward a possible state title will take place Wednesday at home against Region 1-AAAA No. 2 Lee County (10-7-1) in the Class AAAA state tournament second round.
Lakeside, Evans and Greenbrier all battled for state playoff bids this weekend in the first round of the Region 3-AAAA Tournament, but Harlem won't have to.
The Bulldogs finished first in the Region 3N-AAA standings during regular season play and earned an automatic bid to the Class AAA state tournament.
With only one subregion loss heading into the final regular season game of the year, Harlem claimed another Region 3N-AAA regular season title and will face South Effingham in a one-game Region 3-AAA Championship on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Harlem.
The winner will enter the state tournament as a No. 1 seed, while the loser will take the No. 2 seed.
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