By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON – The Corral's scoreboard clock finally stopped at zero Thursday night. South Effingham's boys gave a supreme effort in their second round Class 6A state soccer playoff tilt with Lakeside, but couldn't budge the unfortunate match between time and their scoring column.
South saw its season end with a 1-0 loss to the upset-minded visiting Vikings. A school-record 14 wins momentarily meant little to the Mustangs, many who plopped down on the new turf tired and disappointed at the sound of the final buzzer.
"I know they wanted more," SEHS coach DaKota Paradice said. "It'll be tough to see the seniors leave. They've done great things. I told them I was proud of them. This being my third year, I really felt the culture coming around. It's tough for me to see them lose.
"I guess I'm young enough to think of them as my younger brothers, but a lot of them feel like my kids, too. It's tough because I'm losing (the seniors in their final game) what feels like family to me at this point."
The Mustangs had early chances. Forward Chris Garcia was stopped twice – once after stealing a pass back to the Viking goalie – during South's best opportunities of the night.
Lakeside, a No. 4 seed from Region 4, weathered the opening onslaught and scored at 22:52 of the first half on a perfectly placed free kick by defender Yeremi Garcia from about 35 yards, just sneaking the blast inside the left goal post.
The Vikings (8-8-3), who stunned Region 1 champion Woodward Academy in the first round, relied on defense the rest of the way.
SEHS (14-4-1) attacked with long balls into the box during most free kick opportunities. The Mustangs held a 10-7 advantage in shots, a 3-0 advantage in corners, but couldn't get the equalizing goal.
"We couldn't finish," Paradice said. "We wanted to possess on them (by using short passes to move the ball through the midfield) and not play direct like that all the time. Early on, it looked like it worked, but we never finished."
In the final minutes, South goalie Chase Hoffman stopped a breakaway by Kyle Broussard to keep the pressing Mustangs within one-shot striking distance.
But for the second straight year, a Region 4 team had ended SEHS' hopes. North Atlanta blanked the Mustangs 3-0 in 2022.
Paradice focused on the positives. In just his third year, South has had two 13-win seasons and this 14-win campaign.
The Mustangs, who captured victories over highly regarded programs Glynn Academy, Richmond Hill, and Benedictine this season, had a 2-1 first-round win over Thomas County Central.
"It's good to see the program growing," Paradice said. "We had a lot of the community out in the stands, probably our biggest crowd of the season. It felt like a football game. It made a big impact and made the boys feel like they've been seen."