The first round of the GHSA soccer playoffs got underway Tuesday with 10 area girls teams from Class 5A, Class 3A, and Class A Public and Private taking the field as part of a 29-team contingent of northeast Georgia area boys and girls teams looking to make a run at a state title.
The boys in those classifications will open their playoffs on Wednesday. Among them are the Johnson boys, who will open defense of their 2018 Class 5A state title on at home against Arabia Mountain. The Chestatee boys, who were the Class 4A state runner-up in 2018, will embark on their quest for a return trip to the title match at home on Friday.
After the Knights (14-2-1) played to a 1-1 draw with fellow Hall County powerhouse Gainesville in their season finale last week, Johnson boys coach Brian Shirley said they are ready to get their title defense started.
"This was a great playoff atmosphere kind of game to get the guys ready for the playoffs," Shirley said. "We feel like we're peaking at the right time. Hopefully, we can have another deep run like we did last year."
Chestatee boys coach Mike Herrin said his group has not forgotten its tough 3-2 loss to Northwest Whitfield in last year's championship match.
"The boys remember how close they were last year and are eager to work to get back to that point," Herrin said. "They are excited about the playoffs. What once was a hope has now turned into a yearly expectation."
The Flowery Branch girls advanced to their first semifinal in 2018 in Class 5A. After moving down to Class 4A this season, they have continued their upward trend. The No. 3-ranked Lady Falcons (14-2-2) are the Region 7-4A champions and knocked off No. 4 Blessed Trinity, No. 5 Marist, and tied with No. 2 St. Pius during the regular season.
Branch girls coach Anel Lilic said they are looking forward to the challenge.
"We are playing with confidence right now," Lilic said. "The girls are excited to be hosting the first round. Hopefully, we can continue to play well and play together. If we do that, we give ourselves a big opportunity to achieve our goals."
On Thursday, the girls in Class 6A, Class 4A, and Class 2A will get underway while the boys in those classifications will open up on Friday.
(Check below for scores and the entire first round schedule.)
GHSA Soccer playoffs, first round
WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE (April 24)
Arabia Mountain (R5, S4) at Johnson boys (R8, S1), 6:30 p.m.
Stone Mountain (R5, S4) at Jefferson boys (R8, S1), 6 p.m.
East Jackson boys (R8, S3) at Lovett (R5, S2), 7 p.m.
Dawson County boys (R7, S3) at Calhoun (R6, S2), TBA
North Murray (R6, S3) at East Hall boys (R7, S2), 6 p.m.
Class A Private
Riverside Military boys (R8, S2) at Whitefield Academy (R6, S1), 6 p.m.
Class A Public
Morris Innovative (R6, S2) at Towns County boys (R8, S1), TBA
Commerce boys (R8, S2) at Trion (R6, S1), 7 p.m.
THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE (April 25)
Habersham Central girls (R8, S4) at Alexander (R5, S1), TBA
Gilmer (R6, S4) at Flowery Branch girls (R7, S1), 6 p.m.
White County girls (R7, S4) at Heritage-Catoosa (R6, S1), TBA
Temple (R5, S4) at Union County girls (R8, S1), 6 p.m.
Rabun County girls (R8, S3) at Lamar County (R, S2), 5:30 p.m.
FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (April 26)
Douglas County (R5, S1) at Gainesville boys (R8, S1), 7:30 p.m.
South Paulding (R5, S3) at Habersham Central boys (R8, S2), 7 p.m.
Gilmer (R6, S4) at Chestatee boys (R7, S1), 6 p.m.
Flowery Branch boys (R7, S4) at Southeast Whitfield (R6, S1), 7 p.m.
Rabun County (R8, S3) at Bremen (R5, S2), 6 p.m.
Union County boys (R8, S4) at Lamar County (R5, S1), 7 p.m.
TUESDAY'S SCORES (April 23)
(Area teams in bold)
Buford girls 10, Cross Keys 0
Johnson girls 9, Clarkston 0
Jackson County girls 10, Stone Mountain 0
Jefferson girls 7, Pace Academy 6 (PKs)
Westminster girls 10, East Jackson 0
Dawson County girls 7, Sonoraville 0
Lumpkin County girls 5, Adairsville 1
Calhoun girls 2, North Hall 0
Class A Private
Lakeview Academy girls 5, Savannah Country Day 4 (OT)
Class A Public
Trion boys 6, Commerce 2
Towns County girls 6, Bowden 0