Any loss to a rival is definitely undesired. Augusta Prep's 4-0 loss to Westminster, however, didn't come with the full sting of a rivalry defeat.
In fact, Augusta Prep boys soccer coach Forrest Wimberly said it might have been a blessing in disguise.
"You always want to beat your rivals, but you've got to keep it in perspective," he said. "Looking at the brackets, winning region isn't such a great prize this year. As long as you're first or second you're going to get a home playoff game, but that Macon region is stacked. That's where all the top teams are in the state."
Those top teams make up Region 2-AAA and will match up with Augusta Prep's region in the first round of the state playoffs this year.
"We had this game here, which is important, but second place in region gets us a home playoff game and may even get us a better match-up," Wimberly said.
"This result here probably guarantees Stratford for (Westminster) in the first round."
Stratford, who beat Westminster earlier this year, isn't an ideal first-round match-up for either local GISA team in the state playoffs. Though the postseason is more than a month away, that's how Wimberly predicts the newly formed two-region GISA Class AAA to finish at the end of the regular season.
"No matter who you get, whether you're home or away in the first round, you're going to have a quality opponent," he said. "In year's past if you won the region you did have a golden pathway to the final four, but it's not that way this year."
New region realignments within the GISA mixed things up this year, especially in boys soccer. The top two teams in each region will receive a home playoff game in the first round of the GISA Class AAA state tournament. The difference this year is that first round is actually the state quarterfinals.
As a result, only one state playoff win stands in the way of Augusta Prep and its first trip to the state semifinals since 1997.
Wimberly said an appearance in the state semifinals for the first time in 10 years would be an excellent way to celebrate the soccer program's 15th year in the GISA.
"Winning today would have been nice, but it wasn't the ultimate goal," he said. "The ultimate goal is to host a home playoff game and we can still achieve that."
A loss against Riverside Military on Thursday was a setback for Augusta Prep in its quest for a home playoff game. The Cavaliers tied with Riverside Military 2-2 earlier this season, and Thursday's 2-1 loss drops Augusta Prep into third place in the Region 1-AAA standings.
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