Sunday April 21st, 2024 10:37AM

Soccer: Bluff, Lumpkin County girls both could clinch region titles on Thursday

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

One girl's region title will be decided, and one team in Region 7-3A could put themselves on the path to a region title in a pair of monster showdowns on Thursday.

The Class 4A ninth-ranked Cherokee Bluff girls (12-3, 9-0 Region 8-4A) will go for their second region title in three years and first in Region 8-4A. They will play host to No. 4 North Oconee (10-2-1, 8-0 Region 8-4A). The winner will claim the region title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state playoffs. The Lady Bears' only region loss in 2023 came to the Lady Titans.

The Lady Bears are riding a nine-game win streak -- all in region play -- but the run has been even more impressive considering that senior star Kaitlin Cook, a Georgia Southern signee, suffered a knee injury early in the season and has seen limited action. But they have a talented roster from top to bottom. Eva Martin is headed to Georgia State, Carson DeMars to Wofford, Ellie Sutulovich to Mars Hill, and Anna Gessner to Colorado School of Mines to play at the next level.

"Kaitlin is a player who is not easily replaced. Her strength and ability to score have been recognized for over three years. But we still have Kaitlin Cook!" Bluff girls coach Heath Padgett said. "The player everyone sees is fantastic; however, the person and teammate we get to see daily is even better. She is still with us every day, supporting her teammates and wanting the best for our program. 

"There are 22 other girls on our roster who have put in the work to get where we are. Some are in the headlines, and the others are the reasons they are in the headlines. This has been an impressive run for any team, no matter who is on the field."

Behind freshman standout Bristol Kersh, they have dominated their region foes, outscoring them 66-7. The Lady Titans will be their biggest region challenge. They have outscored their region opponents 60-2.

However, North Oconee has played just three matches over the past two weeks, with a modest 1-1-1 record over that stretch.

"We just need to play our game," Padgett said about the key on Thursday. "Our defense has been beyond impressive, and our senior group plays every game like it is their last."

Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. at Yonah Field.

In Region 7-3A, No. 4 Lumpkin County (9-0-1, 4-0 Region 7-3A) travels to No. 2 Wesleyan (10-1-1, 3-0 Region 7-3A) with first place on the line. A Lady Indians win would clinch the title, while the Lady Wolves would still need a win over either Gilmer or White County over the next two weeks.

(See the entire schedule for Thursday below.)

HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER SCHEDULE FOR Thursday, March 28
(All games start at 5:30 p.m. with girls match unless otherwise noted)

Chestatee at Dalton
Dawson County at Jefferson
Lumpkin County at Wesleyan*
North Oconee at Cherokee Bluff*
Sequoyah at East Forsyth
West Hall at Norcross

(* -- denotes region contest)

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