As last year’s high school soccer state playoffs progressed, local-versus-local matches were a near certainty.
We could see Dalton, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield replicate that magic in 2014.
All three teams play Tuesday in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. The earliest the teams could meet are the semifinals, while a meeting in the championship is possible.
Dalton hosts Sandy Creek at 6 p.m. at Harmon Field, Southeast hosts Columbus at Raider Stadium at 6 p.m. and Northwest travels to Carrollton for a 7 p.m. start.
The Class 3A and 2A matches are Thursday. Coahulla Creek hosts Buford at 5:30 p.m., North Murray hosts North Hall at a time to be determined, Murray County hosts Chattahoochee County at 5:30 p.m. and Morris Innovative travels to Bremen for a 6 p.m. start.
Northwest’s girls team plays Columbus Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Columbus State University.
As for the kickoff to the state postseason, the three boys teams from Class 4A have similar dreams to a season ago. All three made the semifinals. Dalton beat Southeast in the championship.
Another Northwest-Southeast match in the semifinals is possible, as is a state title match between nearby rivals if the Region 7 champion Dalton, the top-ranked Class 4A team on Eurosportscoreboard.com, keeps its unbeaten streak (currently at 40 matches) going. None of the runs happen without winning on Tuesday.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Northwest coach Ryan Scoggins said.
The Bruins (7-7-3) finished third in Region 7. Aside from finishing second in Region 5, Carrollton also is the last team to beat Dalton. In the Class 3A quarterfinals two seasons ago, Dalton lost in Carrollton.
“I know that Carrollton is historically a very strong program,” Scoggins said. “They’ve had a few injuries this season. ... They’re very good at set pieces, something they’ve always leaned on, and playing teams like Dalton and Southeast hopefully prepares you for defending set pieces.”
If Northwest survives, it has a likely date with Johnson-Gainesville, a one-loss squad ranked second in the state. Johnson-Gainesville hosts Marist in round one.
“All four of those teams are good,” Scoggins said. “Marist and Carrollton have been historically good. We’ve had a couple good runs the last two years and Johnson-Gainesville has been ranked No. 2 all year.
“Whoever comes out of this grouping is good pick to reach the semifinals.”
Dalton’s (17-0-1) opponent, Sandy Creek, beat Alexander at the end of the regular season to finish fourth in Region 5.
“It helps to know stuff about your opponent, but you also need to focus on the stuff you’re doing,” Catamounts coach Matt Cheaves said. “All of these teams from this Region 5, and even some of the ones that didn’t make it, are solid teams. Alexander, who didn’t make it, may have been in the playoffs in a different region.”
Southeast (11-5-2) finished runner-up to Dalton in the region and hosts Region 5’s No. 3 seed. If Southeast can beat Columbus, the Raiders could have a road matchup with Region 6 champ Chamblee, a team the Raiders beat in last year’s first round.
“We know Columbus’ region is traditionally strong,” Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said. “Columbus has a strong midfield and good, fast players up top.”
Northwest’s Lady Bruins finished fourth in Region 7 and match up with the Region 5 champs from Columbus. Northwest lost in the first round of last year’s state tournament.
• Today could be the end of the local high school tennis season — or it could be the continuation of something special.
Murray County’s girls team visits Westminster at 1 p.m. in a second round match in the Class 2A bracket. Coahulla Creek’s boys team, the Region 5-3A champs, hosts St. Pius X at 1 p.m. in another second round match.
Coahulla Creek’s girls, Dalton’s boys and girls both reached the second round in Class 4A and Northwest’s boys all reached state but were eliminated last week
This season has been a successful one for local tennis teams, but the remaining squads from Coahulla Creek and Murray County can reach another level by advancing to the quarterfinals.
Devin Golden is a sports writer at The Daily Citizen. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GoldenDev.