The end is near

By Brandon Bush

 

Take heed, friends. The end is near.

Unlike the tin foil hat-wearing folk out there, I’m not talking about the end of the world (if LeBron James had been knocked out in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Cavaliers fans might have disagreed). I am, however, talking about the end of the 2017-18 school year, which can only mean one thing: soccer playoffs.

First, the bad news: After its first playoff game against Model High School was rescheduled from Thursday, April 26, to the Friday immediately following it due to weather, the Putnam County Lady War Eagles soccer team was defeated on the road, 3-0.

The incredibly talented Lady Blue Devils soccer team, which racked up a 14-1-1 and 13-1 region record this season, continued an unfortunate trend for Putnam; Model’s girls basketball team was also responsible for eliminating the Lady War Eagles in the first round of state playoffs earlier this year.

Just as the Lady War Eagles’ first-round exit in basketball didn’t do their incredible season justice, their defeat in soccer was also a poor indication of what kind of year this team had.

On paper, the Lady War Eagles’ final record of 9-7-1 didn’t look as pretty as their male counterparts. However, this record is misleading as the Lady War Eagles are every bit as talented as the War Eagles.

Putnam’s girls team had two 10-0 victories this year, the first against fierce rival Greene County early in the season and the second in a great region win over Monticello. From departing seniors such as Sonia Hernandez and Maribel Nieto to younger stars such as Isabella Chamberlain and Madelyn Peacock, the Lady Eagles had no shortage of weapons.

The argument could also be made that Region 8-AA was a bit tougher on the girls’ side. While the War Eagles have been top dogs in region just about all season (only Rabun County posed a threat), the girls side of Region 8-AA featured two 10-win teams (region champs Oglethorpe County, 11-3-1, and Elbert County, 11-5-1) as well as a Rabun County team that played much better than its record appeared. While Elbert and Rabun were tough losses, Oglethorpe was soundly defeated by the Lady War Eagles early in the season, 6-0.

Regardless, the Lady War Eagles suffered a premature end to a good season. While the team is losing a number of talented seniors to graduation, the Lady War Eagles have the tools to continue being a solid team for years to come.

Now for the good news: Putnam County’s boys team survived Gordon Central by the skin of their teeth Friday, thanks to a perfect set of penalty kicks and goalkeeper Victor Hernandez’s reflexes. The thriller set Putnam up for a second-round appearance against Spencer High School, which advanced after defeating Therrell, 5-2.

The bad thing about Putnam’s second-round appearance is that it was played on Wednesday, inconveniently right after The Messenger goes to press yet before this week’s paper reaches most of our readers. Therefore, my enthusiasm may or may not have been expired by the time you read this column based on how the game against the Spencer went.

No matter the outcome of Wednesday’s game, you can’t take this season away from the War Eagles. It has almost become second nature to reference Putnam’s 15-1-1 record (at press time), undefeated region record, multiple shutout wins and more when writing about them every week.

Brenton Nelson’s clutch, last-second goal to lift Putnam above Oglethorpe back in February still immediately comes to mind whenever I think of Putnam soccer. After flirting with soccer fandom for so long, witnessing a moment like that is what got me invested in the sport and, subsequently, with this War Eagle team.

Diego Sanchez has been absolutely lethal for this team; I attended several games this season in which it seemed like he was scoring all the goals himself. That’s not to say, however, that other War Eagles haven’t been great scorers as well. Just to name a few, Nelson, Josh Garofalo and Bryan Arreola have made their way to the goal several times this season, too.

If you’re reading this column in a reality where the War Eagles lost to Spencer, then know that it would be a complete shock to me. However, based on what I’ve seen this season, I am confident that I’ll be watching round three on Saturday as Putnam moves on to face the winner of Vidalia and Harlem.

The end is definitely near. If Putnam can stay on course throughout the rest of the playoffs, then the grand finale of the 2017-18 school year could be a state championship.

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