Thursday May 23rd, 2024 2:43AM

Girls soccer playoffs: Classes 6A, 4A, 2A open playoffs Thursday

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

The first round of the Georgia High School Association soccer playoffs continues on Thursday around the state and northeast Georgia, with Classes 6A, 4A, and 2A all getting their playoffs under way.

Region champions Habersham Central (8-6A) and Cherokee Bluff (8-4A) will highlight the action with matches at home. The Lady Raiders take on Paulding County out of Region 5-5A while the Lady Bears entertain Hampton out of Region 5-4A at Yonah Field.

The fifth-ranked Lady Bears (14-4) have been on fire the second half of the season, winning 11 of their last 12 games behind an explosive offensive paced by freshman Bristol Kersh.

Bluff girls coach Heath Padgett said they are hoping that No. 1 seed will pay dividends down the road.

“Seeding is important, in my opinion, to give your team confidence. We know going in that we were the best in our region,” he said. “The key for us is what it has been all season: play our game. We move the ball to make the other team play the game we want them to play. We pick our opportunities to go forward well, and our defense is solid. We are excited for the opportunity to continue to play.”

Also in Class 4A, Johnson (12-3-1) is making its second straight playoff appearance and faces a tough challenge in No. 8 Pace Academy (11-5) on the road.

But coach Phil Higgins is hoping a tough schedule has prepared his Lady Knights, who won their final four matches and six of their last seven overall to end the season.

“I feel like our last game against Gainesville we brought a lot of energy and great pressure in the midfield and were able to create chances off that,” he said. “We know Pace Academy is going to have some very high-level players and will be very organized. But we feel like if we can settle into the game early and establish a physical presence, we have a chance.

“The key for us is going to be stopping a couple key players they have up top from getting behind us. A second key is finishing the chances we get.  Their defense is physical and prevents you from getting inside the box so when we do, we need to finish.”

Habersham Central (13-2) won its final nine games and allowed just 5 goals over its last seven games with four shutouts. Paulding County (10-4) has won three straight coming into the playoffs and scored 19 goals in that span. It should an intriguing matchup at Raider Stadium in Mt. Airy.

Also in Class 6A, Jackson County is also at home in the opening round while Gainesville hits the road, as is East Jackson in Class 2A.

1st ROUND SOCCER PLAYOFFS, Thursday, April 18

Gainesville (R8, S3) at South Paulding (R5, S2), 6 p.m.
Newnan (R5, S3) at Jackson County (R8, S2), 6 p.m.
Paulding County (R5, S4) at Habersham Central (R8, S1), 6 p.m.

Hampton (R5, S4) at Cherokee Bluff (R8, S1), 6 p.m.
Johnson (R8, S3) at Pace Academy (R5, S2), 6 p.m.

East Jackson (R8, S3) at Callaway (R5, S2), 5:30 p.m.

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