Thomasville’s state soccer tournament march begins at home against East Laurens on Thursday.
The Bulldogs, who won the 1-AA title last month despite attrition woes all spring, appear to be as healthy as they have all season.
THS coach Keith Gwaltney said that the team’s return to full strength has refreshed his lineup card to a much less confusing state.
“I think we’ve got our best personnel that we could possibly put on the field healthy right now,” he said.
Cason Wells and Will Reynolds have been the two headliners that have missed a bulk of the season due to injuries. Wells underwent knee surgery in the offseason then suffered from an appendicitis mid-way through practice earlier this year. Reynolds sustained a groin injury and hasn’t returned to 100 percent health.
Gwaltney said he plans to ease the latter into playing time on Thursday to gear up for what he expects to be a trip to the second round.
“We don’t want to necessarily look past this game,” he said, “because their team doesn’t look as strong as some we’ve played this season. For us, it’s probably a good tune up game where we can get some confidence going.”
East Laurens is the No. 4 seed out of 3-AA, and fell 10-0 to Fitzgerald – a team Thomasville beat – earlier this season.
Gwaltney said that despite what he gauged to be a mismatch, he doesn’t plan to let off the gas if things get ugly early.
“I think you’ve got to open up the faucet,” he said. “You want to build as much momentum for the second round.”
Gwaltney said that going full throttle is easier said than done – especially with this team this year.
The coach said that his team has struggled to play consistent soccer through the course of each 40-minute game this season – most notably in its 2-0 season finale loss to Cairo.
“It does give me concern,” Gwaltney said. “One day we’ll play very solid soccer in the first half then lay down in the second [half]. Other times it’s the exact opposite. As a coach, you see some bright spots in that, but you hope for your team to play consistent for the whole game.”
Thursday’s game at Veterans Memorial Stadium begins at 6 p.m.