Kingsland is a long way from home.
It is a long way in mileage,120 to the east. It is a long way by car, whether it be via Nahunta or via Folkston. It is an especially long way by school bus, which will be the method of travel for a pair of Tift County High soccer teams. They play at Camden County this afternoon.
Bobby Earls, coach of the boys squad, summed up the journey.
"Our playoffs rest on a three-hour trip."
Both the Blue Devils and Wildcats are competing for the No. 4 slot out of Region 1-AAAAAA and this is the final conference game of the season. Tift plays both Coffee and Lowndes next week, but they are to be non-region games.
Earls is not the only coach with something on the line. The girls are vying for the region championship. So is Camden. Even better, said girls coach Doug Head, "they're undefeated and we're undefeated."
Head naturally wishes he was the one hosting the game. Like Earls, he sees the time spent on the road as a factor.
He worries about other things, too, such as their last game at Colquitt County. In a non-region meeting, they defeated the Lady Packers, 5-2. They were up 4-0 at one point before surrendering two straight goals.
Head believes it was a one-time event, though. "I told the girls at least it's out of their system." Even with the feeling it was the worst game of the year for his team, he's reassured as he said the Colquitt coach said it was the home team's best.
Camden won't be that easy.
"We have to defend," he said. "They're really strong." Tift has been able to combine a strong midfield and defense with an offense that averages six goals per game. The average is especially impressive considering that several games have had to be stopped early in the 2nd half because they were ahead 10-0. He is anticipating the Lady 'Cats to be just as defensively tough.
"They're the toughest team we've faced all year, but we're the toughest team they've faced all year."
Against Colquitt, his usuals were in control of the offense. Abby Kay Choate scored three goals to increase her incredible scoring numbers. Taylor MacDonald and Blakeley Bergeron had the other two.
Even if the Lady Devils cannot defeat Camden, they are assured of hosting the first round of the state tournament as a No. 2 seed.
While Head and Lady Devils fight to keep their record spotless, Earls had another reaction to Tuesday's Colquitt match.
"I was in shock most of the night," he said.
Facing a Packer club consisting of 14 seniors, Tift started three freshmen. Then during the game, the lineup had to be shifted further after player penalties. They scored four goals in the 2nd half for the 6-2 final.
Outside of crossing his fingers that they can carry their momentum over, Earls has another plan: "They have the same initials. I'm telling them to pretend that 'CC' (on the logo) is Colquitt."
They carry the same region record, 2-3. Whereas Tift has a win over the Packers, Camden lost 4-1.
The 'Cats, he said "have a couple of kids capable of scoring." That has not be a problem for his team either, lately. They have scored 10 goals in their past three games.
Luis Hernandez and Damion Terrazas each had two goals Tuesday. Edgar Zermeno and Jonathan Alvarado supplied the other two.
The non-region games next week are Tuesday against Coffee at 6 p.m. and April 18 at Lowndes. The latter ends the regular season.
Kingsland is a long way from home.
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