For the first time in several years, the Jags will host a first-round state match while the Lady Jags will have to hit the road for the state playoffs. The Spalding boys team (12-4-1), the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAA, will host the Westside-Augusta Patriots (11-2) — the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAA — today at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
The Lady Jags (12-4) — the No. 3 seed in the region — will take a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Harlem, Ga. to face the Harlem High Lady Bulldogs (14-3) Friday at 6:30 p.m. Harlem is the No. 2 seed from Region 3-AAA.
This will be the first time in the Scott Henderson era that the Jags will host a state-playoff match. The 2009 Jags won at Baldwin before losing to Cairo in second-round state action, the 2010 Jags lost at Cairo in the first round and the Jags missed the playoffs in 2011.
“This is our moment to put a good stamp on the season. We’ve worked hard for this and it’s great that we reached our goal of hosting a state playoff match,” said Jags head coach Scott Henderson. “But that was just one goal — our other goal was to move on in the state playoffs. It will be tough, but I believe my guys will do everything they can to advance.”
The Jags will need to dictate the pace of the match and not allow the Patriots to get in a rhythm, Henderson said.
“We’ve got to get the ball forward quickly and be physical like we have been all year. That’s the key to our success this season,” he said. “I expect this to be a wide-open match so we need to take care of our business.”
Taking care of business also meant staying hydrated due to the heat. Henderson made sure the team got their fluids all week long in preparation for the evening heat today.
Westside relies on basically two players for the bulk of their scoring, so the Jags will have to try and contain them without slipping and getting beat in the box by other Patriots.
The winner of the Jags-Patriots match will face the winner between No. 1 seed Carrollton and No. 4 seed Grady in second-round action May 8.
On the girls side, Lady Jags coach Wayne Gardner said Harlem High is a very good team which comes from a strong region — and it’s a team which may be seeking revenge on Spalding. The Lady Jags defeated Harlem 10-0 in the second round of the 2011 state playoffs at Memorial Stadium, with Li Anne Harris scoring 3 goals and Myra Fisher and Olivia O’Brien netting two goals each that day.
This year, Spalding will be have to travel to Harlem as the road playoff team and Gardner said his girls practiced in the heat early this week to prepare for the high temperatures expected on Friday. He also advised the team to stay hydrated all week long.
“The good news is the players are pretty healthy right now,” Gardner said. “We gave them some time off after the regular-season finale to heal their various bumps and bruises and I think the rest has helped them. We’ve had some great practices.”
The winner of the Lady Jags-Lady Bulldogs match will face the winner between No. 1 seed St. Pius X and No. 4 seed Central-Carroll in second-round action May 9.