By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON — South Effingham boys soccer coach DaKota Paradice had a simple explanation for his team’s easier-than-expected 5-2 victory over Bradwell Institute on Wednesday that clinched a spot in the Class AAAAAA state tournament.
“It was good to have some of the guys back (from injuries),” Paradice said about the return of several players to full strength for the season’s stretch run.
Beginning the week, with one Region 2-AAAAAA game left, the Mustangs (10-6, 6-5) still have a shot at third place.
More importantly, SEHS appears to be peaking at just the right time. The Mustangs have a three-game winning streak, tying their longest of the season, and the five goals against Bradwell were their most in a game since scoring eight against Vidalia in the opening week.
“I think we’re a team, when we play well, that can earn the respect of people,” Paradice said. “We just have to find that consistency.”
First on the road to consistency — finding a consistent lineup. For the Bradwell game, midfielder Riley Quick and goalie Liam Rickman were back. And Paradice said Ashton Mealor, Tyler Quick and CJ Webb were finally at full strength.
The Mustangs needed overtime to beat Bradwell 2-1 in the team’s first game April 1. On Wednesday, SEHS looked like it might not need the entire 80 minutes to complete the season sweep.
The Mustangs took control right away and peppered the Tigers goal with nine first-half shots on net while building a 5-0 advantage. Only some outstanding Bradwell goaltending kept SEHS’ score at 5.
Once the Mustangs broke through, it was like a dam breaking. During the 15th minute, Mustang forward Chris Garcia was pulled down in the penalty box and Jaxon Whiddon put away the ensuing penalty kick for a 1-0 lead.
About five minutes later, pinpoint passing from Riley Quick to Devin Corley to Anthony Betancio produced a picture-perfect second goal.
Corley, Mealor and Masi Tamargo added goals in the final 16 minutes of the half and the rout was on.
Paradice welcomed the rare offensive night. In 10 previous region matches, SEHS had scored one goal or less eight times by the end of regulation time.
“It was good to get everyone (playing time) and good to see balls in the back of the net,” Paradice said.
Two nights later, Garcia, Mealor and Whiddon had first-half goals in a 3-0 victory over Southeast Bulloch.
The Mustangs finish their regular season with home matches against Brunswick on Monday and Camden County on Friday.
SEHS begins action in the state tournament on April 22.