Photo by Brian Paglia
Forest Park coach Jonathan White knows the Panthers’ first round opponent, Whitewater, won’t play like it did 15 days ago in a 5-2 loss to the Panthers.
Prep soccer playoffs
Tuesday, May 1
• Dutchtown at Tri-Cities, 7 p.m.
• Jonesboro at Starr’s Mill, 6 p.m.
• Luella at Coffee, 6:30 p.m.
• Riverdale at McIntosh
• Whitewater at Forest Park, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 3
• Drew at Grovetown, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 2
• Luella at Tift County, 5:30 p.m.
• Morrow at Whitewater, 6 p.m.
• Starr’s Mill at Forest Park, 5 p.m.
• Union Grove at Lovejoy,
Friday, May 4
• Grovetown at Eagle’s Landing, 6 p.m.
• Locust Grove at Richmond Academy, 5:30 p.m.
• Providence Christian at Strong Rock, 5 p.m.
Dutchtown and Forest Park are quite familiar with their first round opponents in the boy’s soccer state tournament.
The Bulldogs (9-4-0), the third seed out of Region 3-AAAA, will face Tri-Cities, the second seed out of Region 4-AAAA, whom they defeated, 1-0, back on Feb. 24.
It’s only been 15 days since Forest Park (14-2), the region champions out of Regoin 4-AAAA, beat Whitewater, 5-2.
But Dutchtown coach Justin Smith and Forest Park coach Jonathan White know the stakes are higher now.
“We’re playing under different circumstances now,” White said. “Our players need to play better than they played before.”
Said Smith: “[Tri-Cities is] a solid team. They’re definitely a quality team for a first round match-up.”
A total of 14 boy’s and girl’s soccer teams from the Southern Crescent qualified for the state tournament.
First round games are spread out next week, beginning with Class AAAA and AAAAA boy’s games on Tuesday. In Class AAAA, Dutchtown travels to Tri-Cities, Forest Park hosts Whitewater at Twelve Oaks Stadium at 7 p.m., Jonesboro will play at Starr’s Mill and Riverdale takes on McIntosh on the road. In Class AAAAA, Luella travels to Coffee County.
But Smith and White have extra insight into their opponents.
Smith noted that the Bulldogs were without their top two strikers in the previous meeting with Tri-Cities, but said Tri-Cities proved themselves defensively.
“They’re a good defense team,” Smith said. “They move the ball around well. They showed us how good they are.”
White said his team is looking forward to another match with Whitewater. The Panthers controlled the tempo in that game and disrupted Whitewater’s offense, two keys that White said Forest Park must do again to advance.
But he knows Whitewater will come back with a reinvigorate effort on defense and an urgency that only the state playoffs can summon.
“I think we’re going to have to do the same things,” White said. “Our defense is going to have to play a lot tighter. We gave up two goals, and that’s not ideal. We’re expecting their defense to play a lot more stingy.”
Meanwhile, there are things on a periphery to manage as well. Like prom for Forest Park, or expectations for Dutchtown.
Indeed, the Bulldogs have made it to the brink of the semifinals twice in the past three seasons, but come up short each time. Smith said those teams didn’t manage their focus well enough, always peeking ahead to potential opponents later in the playoffs.
That won’t be the case this time.
“They’re definitely determined,” Smith said. “Each game we’re going to take individually. We’re going to talk about one opponent at a time.”