Ten GMC Prep soccer seniors will suit up and take to the school’s Robertson Field for the final time tonight when they and the rest of the Bulldogs square off against the Atkinson County Rebels in the state semifinals.
The winner will compete for the GHSA Class A-Public soccer state championship next week, likely at Mercer University, while the loser will call it a season. Start time is slated for 6 p.m. at GMC, and admission is $7.
The Rebels of Atkinson County enter tonight’s matchup as the Area 1 champs sporting a 15-3-2 record. They enter the Final Four looking for their first true playoff test after having defeated Montgomery County 10-0 in the first round and Drew Charter 6-2 in the quarters. Atkinson’s last loss, according to MaxPreps, came in the team’s regular-season finale at the hands of Class 7A opponent Lowndes County, 5-3. Lowndes won its region in the GHSA’s highest classification but was upset in the first round of the state playoffs.
Atkinson County High School is located in Pearson, which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive straight down Highway 441 South, and the southern portion of the state is where the Rebels have played nearly all their games.
The Bulldogs’ first-round game was similar to Atkinson’s as it ended in a lopsided 10-1 win over Dooly County. GMC Prep had a much more equal fight on their hands last Wednesday when Trion High School came to town as the score had to be settled on penalty kicks (PKs). It was the first time a GMC boys soccer game went to PKs since 2012, coach Bobby Jaworski’s first season with the team. The Bulldogs pulled the win out to earn their semifinal berth, but must now put that behind them as they prepare to face another tough opponent in the visiting Rebels.
“They’re going to be fast and they’re going to be physical,” Jaworski said prior to Monday’s practice. “I just hope everything we’ve done up to this point transitions well into this game.”
GMC Prep has been a scoring machine this season, averaging more than five goals per contest, but that machine has been malfunctioning somewhat as of late. Removing the Dooly County playoff win from the equation, the ‘Dogs did not score more than three goals in a game in the month of April. Jaworski said the opportunities have been there, but conversion has not since the team’s 10-0 March 27 win over East Laurens.
“We definitely need to get better at finishing,” he said. “We’re putting the ball in the right areas to create chances — getting it down deep and putting it in front of goal. We were also taking good shots at the top of the box with good pace on them in the last game, we just couldn’t get it around the keeper. That’s our biggest weakness and it’s something we’ve got to fix before Wednesday.”
GMC’s inability to finish as of late could be scary for both contenders coming into tonight’s semifinal match — for the home team if that trend continues because it could end their season, and for the away team if the levee breaks and the goals start pouring in.
“I think we’re moving the ball well,” Jaworski pointed out. “Going back and watching the film from the Trion game, we dominated possession and we were putting the ball in the right areas. I think if we just continue that and add the finishing aspect to it it’s all going to translate and we’ll have a great chance to win.”
On the other side of the bracket, Lake Oconee Academy and ACE Charter are scheduled to do battle tonight for the right to take on the GMC-Atkinson winner.