As each second ticked, the intensity mounted. Both squads yearned for victory as if it were the final game of the season.
Thomasville held off a late Thomas County Central charge in the final three and a half minutes to secure a 2-1 win on Friday – its first over the Lady Jackets in 14 years.
Central, however, didn’t shun the deficit. Senior Kaylee Shaver flocked to the ball, and notched three goal attempts in the closing minutes.
No matter how many defensive stops Thomasville made, the ball continued to find a way to Shaver’s foot.
But the Central senior couldn’t wed the ball and the net – a feat she’s conquered 11 times in the past three games.
Thomasville keeper Amy Latner swatted away each attempt as if it were one of the errant South Georgia gnats that made Veterans Memorial Stadium home on Friday.
“Who wants it? ... Keep working ... We can do this,” Latner shouted from the goal box.
On the ensuing throw-in, Thomasville’s Ciera McGriff wrestled away possession and galloped downfield as the Bulldog faithful erupted with confirmation that it was finally Thomasville’s night.
The seconds slowly faded, and embraces spread like wildfire.
Thomasville coach Martha Murray downplayed the importance of the victory – “In the big picture it doesn’t mean anything; we’ve still got to beat Berrien to win the region,” she said – but based on the array of joyous expression, this one meant more than she lead on.
Not only did Murray lead the Lady ‘Dogs to their first win over Central in over a decade, but she also secured the win over her former pupil. Central coach Courtney Warner played for Murray years back, and has held an edge over her mentor since
taking the Central job in 2010.
Yet despite what Warner called one of the more arduous losses of the season – one that also snapped a three-game win streak dating back to March 25 – she believes the Lady Jackets are poised to grow from defeat.
“I told the girls: ‘Keep your heads up. You made [Thomasville] earn that win. You fought tremendously hard,” Warner said. “Obviously I hate the loss, but I can’t be disappointed in them.”