The South Effingham Mustangs soccer team can look back at its 2007 season and revel in its accomplishments. They also may wonder what could have been.
With their first region championship in hand, the Mustangs fell 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Devils in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs, ending their season at 11-5.
It was the second straight year the Mustangs have fallen in the first round of the state playoffs. Had the Mustangs continued to advance, they would have faced just one game on the road through the bracket.
“The disappointment is in that we have been an overachieving team,” Mustangs coach Paul Richards said. “Our hard work closed the gap against teams that were more talented.”
The Mustangs are losing a lot of experience. They had a senior-laden team in 2007.
“We graduate a lot of seniors and some key leaders,” Richards said.
But the veteran coach is buoyed by a deep crop of younger players expected to move up next year to join the likes of Ian Anderson, who started the year in goal as Daniel Browning was still involved with basketball and moved back to forward, where he became a top scoring threat.
“We have our largest and technically strongest group of ninth graders coming up,” Richards said. “It ought to be fun.”
It also may take some work and patience for next year’s young team to develop, though many did play some at the varsity level this year, mostly in the second game against Effingham County.
“They’re talented,” Richards said, “but they do not have high school experience. High school is a physical, high-tempo game. That takes a little while to get used to. But we can get there.”