It’s exactly what was forecast well before the start of the current GHSA soccer playoffs.
Bremen High School’s top-ranked clubs for boys and girls coasted through the first three rounds, and now the Blue Devils are facing the schools that their coach, Jason Fields, knew would be among the final steps towards the ultimate goal of a state title.
Those institutions are The Lovett School and Pace Academy, and each one is sending a squad westward to Haralson County for semifinal matches Monday and Tuesday. The girls take the field first, Bremen facing Pace on Monday, and then the boys host Lovett on Tuesday. Both matches begin at 6:30 on their respective nights.
In three playoff wins for the Bremen girls, they have 23 goals scored to one allowed. Pace’s girls have outscored their opposition 27-1. This team has a few losses on its record as it’s taken on Class 7A No. 1 Lambert (18 wins), Parkview, Starr’s Mill and Marist.
Neither the Bremen nor Lovett boys’ teams have given up a goal in three playoff contests.
Fields was ready to play on Friday, but there’s still a whole weekend to ponder, process and plan. The Blue Devils went on the road Wednesday for the quarterfinals. Taking on Lamar County High, the girls won 3-0 and the boys 4-0.
“The build-up before the games makes you kind of anxious,” said Fields. “I wish it was 6:29 on Monday. That way we can see what will happen.”
For the playoffs, Fields said it’s been about staying consistent and focused. Composure’s been a key factor also as he said teams get “chippy” at times with seasons on the line.
“We’ve managed to keep playing our style of soccer,” he said. “The leaders keep stepping up. Practice is where you work out all the kinks, and game day’s where we show what we’ve learned. If we can impose our will on the other team, the results are going to come.
“If we can play our game and stick to the way we like to play soccer, the school’s we’re matched up with are going to have to adapt. I understand when you are down and not possessing the ball, it gets frustrating for high school kids. Sometimes it gets real physical. We’ve gotten used to it, and we try to play two-touch soccer. Get the ball off our feet, real high tempo so they don’t get the opportunities that put us in a bad situation.”
While Pace’s girls have played strong, higher class soccer clubs, Fields believes Bremen will be the best it’s seen at the AA level. The coach can assure that Bremen is nothing like any of their previous playoff foes like Oglethorpe County, whom Pace beat 8-0 in the Elite 8.
“I’ve seen them play,” said Fields. “I know where we can expose them. Hopefully they think we’re another public school they are going to run through to try to get to Lovett again.”
Lovett, from the same region as Pace, is in the other AA girls semifinal facing Model.
The winner of Bremen-Lovett in the boys semifinal will face the winner of Pace and Gordon Central for the AA championship. Somebody in that Tuesday match is going to do something rare: give up a point. Both teams are accustomed to winning via shutout, but Bremen is the only team going into play without a loss (19-0-2).
“It means a lot to them to not lose a game,” said Fields. “There’s only one way to end an undefeated season. Losing the last game is not something anybody on the team deserves.
“We have a really solid defense. This is by far the fastest attacking side I’ve had. Our technical ability is really high. If I can’t beat two more teams with this team, it almost seems impossible.”
A good way to build momentum in the match: score first. Fields said then it becomes a matter of coaching and how you want to proceed. It can be trying to maintain a one-goal lead with a defensive minded plan or keep applying the pressure on the offensive end.
“That first goal means a lot,” he said. “In maybe 10 or 11 of our wins we’ve gotten a goal in the first five minutes. We try to go hard in the first few minutes, try to catch them flat. We are going to continue to do that, see if we can get a goal early and how they react to it.”
Depending on that reaction, Fields said Bremen has the speed to keep people from getting behind the back line. The goal totals at Lamar were not high because the coach wanted to possess, make Lamar chase after the ball in the second half and limit the risk of injuries.
Match-ups of this caliber could come down to overtime and the penalty kick shootout. Fields said he has thought of that and spent time in practice figuring out who those kickers would be and giving the goalkeepers looks at the different styles of PKs.
“We are preparing for every single option,” said Fields. “We want to finish in regulation. It’s not who’s better at penalties. It’s who’s better in the game.”
For Bremen High soccer, six boys and five girls make the state all-star team. Mary House and Justin Shin were named AA Players of the Year, Shin also receiving the nod for AA Academic Player of the Year.
“We’re all looking forward to that big award of a state championship more than anything,” said Fields, a two-time Coach of the Year winner for 2021 as well.
Lassiter High School prevailed in the battle of top four ranked teams in GHSA Class 6A.
The No. 4 Trojans from Marietta defeated the No. 2 ranked Trojans of Carrollton High School 6-3 Thursday in Game 3 of their best-of-3 second round series. This deciding game was necessitated by a doubleheader split Wednesday in which both teams won their games by identical 10-0 routs.
Carrollton’s season ends with a 30-5 record. Lassiter faces Valdosta High in the quarterfinal round.
In Class AA, Bremen High’s Blue Devils are in the ‘Elite 8’ and will play in Cochran against the Bleckley County Royals. In a doubleheader moved to Wednesday because of Tuesday’s inclement weather, Bremen swept Model highlighted by a complete-game three-hit shutout by Jake Steed. Winning 1-0, Steed did not walk a batter and struck out three.
The Blue Devils won Game 2 7-1.
Bowdon High’s season ended in the Class A-Public second round despite taking host Commerce High to extra innings in Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Commerce won the game 8-7 and completed the sweep in Game 2, final score 11-7.
“At the end of the day defense and timely hitting cost us,” said coach Brian Vance. “I am so proud of this team for fighting through the adversity that was this season, from COVID to injuries, they never stopped working.”