Northwest Whitfield High School’s boys soccer team has played a high quality of opponents all season long.
The Bruins’ next foe can say the same thing.
Northwest travels to Forsyth today for a Class 4A state quarterfinals matchup at Mary Persons. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
Region 2-4A champion Mary Persons (16-2) has five regular-season wins from this year against teams who advanced to the Class 4A state tournament. The Bulldogs beat Perry twice, 3-2 and 1-0; Veterans, 4-1; Americus-Sumter, 3-0; and Region 4 champion Spalding, 2-1. Spalding is the only of those three to reach the quarterfinals and will host Alexander on Saturday.
Mary Persons’ only two losses were against Class 5A’s Warner Robins, 3-1, and Class 3A’s Jackson, 2-0. Both have lost in their respective state tournament brackets. The Bulldogs’ goal differential is 88-11, and they have 13 shutouts in their favor, including seven of the past eight games. Mary Persons beat Wayne County 3-0 in the first round and topped Upson-Lee by the same score earlier this week in the second round.
“At first glance, they have played a tough schedule,” Northwest coach Ryan Scoggins said. “They have shown they can win a big match.”
The Bruins (15-5) have, too. Northwest played — and lost to — local rival Dalton three times this season, including in the Region 7-4A championship match. Northwest split a pair of games with Southeast Whitfield, which along with Dalton is also in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Northwest beat Grady in penalty kicks in this past Friday’s first round and then beat Chestatee 4-1 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.
State quarterfinals for boys teams were scheduled for Saturday — Dalton will host Jonesboro at 12:30 p.m. while Southeast travels to Dutchtown for a 3:30 p.m. match — but the Bruins made a special request to Mary Persons to play today. Northwest’s prom is Saturday.
Scoggins hopes the quicker turnaround between the second round and quarterfinals carries over his squad’s solid performance at Gainesville’s Chestatee.
“I hope it’s a help,” he said. “I think our guys are excited about how well they played against Chestatee.”
Mary Persons reached the Class 3A state tournament each of the previous three years. However, only in 2012 did the Bulldogs advance past the first round, losing 5-0 in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Woodward Academy.
“They are a very disciplined team,” Scoggins said. “They keep their shape defensively and don’t make any mistakes. ... We’re going to have to build our attack patiently.”
The winner of the match faces either Southeast or Dutchtown in the semifinals. Scoggins acknowledged the possibility of the Bruins and Southeast facing for a third time — with the winner’s reward being a spot in the finals — but said it’s not the main concern.
“I have noticed that,” he said. “That would be awesome for the community. But we’ve got to take care of this round. We can’t think about that. It may be Mary Persons and Dutchtown playing. We both could be hanging up the cleats after this game. But we do see that’s out there.”