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Saturday May 28th, 2016 9:39AM

Soccer: Area teams, state leaders prepping for crucial stretch run

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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Couched in the terms of its own sport, the high school soccer season has made it to halftime.

We've arrived at the midpoint of the 2014 campaign and -- like any good match -- there is all to play for in the second half.

In other words, even though we already know a good deal about the area's teams, there is still a lot of race in front of us.

Certainly some front-runners have pull ahead, and the rest of the state believes that northeast Georgia's teams belong with the front-runners. In fact 12 area teams are currently ranked among the Eurosportscoreboard.com coaches poll.

Amongst that group are (records included in parentheses):

Class AAAAA
No. 6 Gainesville boys (7-1-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAAA)
No. 5 Flowery Branch girls (7-1-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA)
No. 10 Gainesville girls (8-0-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAAA)

Class AAAA
No. 2 Johnson boys (8-0, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA)
No. 3 Chestatee boys (8-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA)

Class AAA
No. 3 Dawson County boys (8-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 5 West Hall boys (5-2-2, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 7 East Hall boys (4-1-3, 2-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 8 North Hall boys (5-2-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 4 Buford girls (6-2, 2-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 5 Dawson County girls (7-0-2, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)
No. 10 White County girls (7-1-2, 3-0 Region 7-AAA)

It should come as no shock that those teams are amongst the programs setting the pace so far in region title races, though the Chestatee girls are also making a strong case in Region 8-AAAA at 7-2 and 4-0 in region play.

While the numbers on the left and right are both impressive, perhaps the most intriguing part is that most of these teams have yet to play each other.

Not only will the race for a region title feature a lot of local talent -- that talent will be battling itself in what should be some scintillating matches. And, of course, there are also plenty of key games on tap against region foes not located in each others' backyard.

For some teams those separation contests begin this week, including the Flowery Branch girls against Heritage (3-0 in Region 8-AAAAA) on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Friday's line-up features Dawson County's girls at White County, along with Gainesville's boys at Winder-Barrow (3-1 in Region 8-AAAAA).

A look at the schedule ahead, however, reveals some key dates on the remaining schedule, including what might be called judgement day -- March 28. That Friday will see battles between Flowery Branch at Gainesville, Chestatee at Johnson, White County at Buford, North Hall at Dawson County, and East Hall at West Hall.

There are of course other huge contests on the schedule, including Dawson County at Buford and North Hall at East Hall (March 25), Chestatee at North Hall (April 15), Gainesville at Johnson (April 18) and No. 5 Clarke Central boys at Gainesville and Dawson County at East Hall (April 22).

In other words we haven't seen anything yet. And soccer fans, coaches and players can hardly wait.
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