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SEHS soccer warms up for State with 2-0 win over Benedictine
Ryan Ellwood
South Effingham freshman goalie Ryan Ellwood (shown here before the Mustangs' Feb. 10 game against Cambridge) had nine saves in SEHS' 2-0 win over Benedictine last Thursday. (Mark Lastinger/Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald


GUYTON – A loss, a close win and a tie constituted a slump for South Effingham’s boys’ soccer team.

The Mustangs, however, broke out of their three-game funk and gave Coach DaKota Paradice several reasons to be confident heading into the Class 6A state tournament after a 2-0 victory over Benedictine last Thursday night at the Corral.

BC (9-6-2) went to the Class 4A Final Four at state last season so it was a perfect tuneup for the upcoming higher level of play the Mustangs will see in the postseason.

South (14-2-1) tied a single-season school record with its 14th win. Now the Mustangs are looking to break the mark when they open the Class 6A state tournament against Forest Park (9-5) at the Corral on Friday.

“After this game (against Benedictine), I feel a lot better about our team,” Paradice said. “Hopefully, we can take this game and transition it to a competitive game Friday. The big thing is to have everyone healthy, everyone on the same page and play our game.”

Against BC, South played without leading scorer Edson Escobar. The senior attacking midfielder had the flu, Paradice said.

The Mustangs won’t have a key sub Kirill Stavenchuk or Logan Perez for the Forest Park game. Stavenchuk broke his ankle against Lakeside and Perez had a second red card against Glynn Academy and must sit out one more game.

After a 13-1 start, South began a slide with a 5-1 loss to Glynn. The Mustangs needed an Escobar goal in the final two minutes to beat Lakeside 3-2 and tied Islands 2-2.

“That’s a slump for us so we were focused on staying in good spirits and bringing good energy (against BC),” Paradice said. “For me, this was one of the top 2 or 3 enjoyable games this season.”

Even shorthanded, the Mustangs have offensive firepower. Reserve Nicholas Munoz caused a handball in the box and Desmond Prince scored on the subsequent penalty kick with 2:31 to go in the first half to make it 1-0.

Midway through the second half, Cole Hoffman added an insurance goal. A corner kick by Devin Corley pinballed in the BC goal area before Travis Davis headed a pass to Hoffman, who directed it in.

South’s freshman goalie Ryan Ellwood made the two-goal cushion stand up. He recorded nine saves while playing 70 of the 80 minutes.

“He communicated with everybody better today,” Paradice said. “It’s scary to have nine seniors in front of you and you have to tell them what to do. Early on, he kind of hesitated but after that he was in control. … I think Ryan made a big step today.”

SEHS will need a similar performance against Forest Park, the No. 3 seed from Region 3. The Panthers lost twice in their region – 2-1 to highly regarded Woodward Academy and in penalty kicks to Morrow.

Forest Park’s other three losses came against ScoreAtlanta top-10 ranked teams – Class 5A’s No. 1 team McIntosh, Class 4A’s No. 3 team Starr’s Mill and Class 4A’s No. 5 team Whitewater.

The winner between the Mustangs and Panthers will advance to the Sweet Sixteen on April 26 against the winner of Veterans-Riverwood.