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The road must be traveled

By Brian Paglia

When Union Grove's boys soccer team defeated region and county rival Luella earlier this season, the consequences of the victory was 215 miles. The Wolverines earned a first round home game in the Class AAAAA tournament. Luella had to travel to Savannah.

Should the three boys soccer teams from the Southern Crescent left in the state tournament advance beyond tomorrow's second round games, each would make their respective quarterfinals appearance on the fields of other teams.

And while teams must battle logistics and idleness on the road, the best teams often win regardless.


Luella at Houston County

Of the 16 games played last week in the first round of the Class AAAAA tournament, only one lower seed upset a higher seed: Luella.

History was on the Lions' side. Its opponent was Windsor Forest, the team Luella defeated in its last playoff win in 2007, making it two out of the last four years the Lions have advanced to the second round.

Luella's opponent is no stranger to playoff soccer. No. 1 seed Houston County (14-4), making its 10th straight postseason appearance, defeated Pebblebrook 2-1 on penalty kicks in the first round.

The Lions (12-4) defeated Windsor Forest, 3-1, behind goals by Andrew Preston, Josh Cruz and Devon Grisham and 13 saves from goalkeeper Jacob Lunn.

Union Grove at Chapel Hill

Despite the obstacles before the Wolverines -- the brutal gusts of wind, a pesky Savannah Arts squad and a delay for lightning -- they managed to win in the first round for the first time since 2004.

Union Grove (15-4) had made the postseason for the previous three seasons, but couldn't advance. But those losses have built up experience in this veteran-laden Wolverines team. That should serve Union Grove well, as two of those losses came on the road.

The Wolverines now go to Chapel Hill (14-2), which is in the second round for the second consecutive season. But the Panthers compete in Region 4-AAAAA, one considered to lack the depth of quality teams in other regions.


Wayne County at Dutchtown

The Bulldogs lost just one game during the regular season, boasts Henry county's top two scorers and possesses an experienced roster.

And yet Dutchtown coach Justin Smith was frustrated in the Bulldogs' inability to capitalize on numerous chances a 1-0 win over Harris County in the first round at home.

Last year, the concern for Dutchtown going into the second round was how the Bulldogs would handle the idleness of travel to Statesboro. They didn't handle it well. They were rusty in the first and Statesboro took an insurmountable lead.

But Dutchtown (13-1-1) has the luxury of its No. 1 seed this time. It will face another formidable team in the second round, this time in Wayne County (17-2), but they will do so at home on its own field.