Four local boys high school soccer teams reached the quarterfinals of their respective state tournaments last season.
This year, three of them will battle in the same sub-region.
As the season begins this week, teams that enjoyed success in 2012 will hope to build on it this year. Those whose seasons ended before the state tournament will try to capture some of the magic out of their grasp, and every local team but Christian Heritage will compete in a league that includes another area school.
Dalton, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield — all state quarterfinalists a year ago — are in Sub-region 7B-4A this season. North Murray, which reached the Class 2A state quarterfinals, is in Region 5-3A with Coahulla Creek.
Murray County drops down to Class 2A after having a winning record last year while competing in the same region as Dalton and Southeast, and Morris Innovative will be with Murray County in Region 7-2A after playing its inaugural season in Class A. Christian Heritage, which makes the jump to Georgia High School Association competition after playing previously in Georgia Independent School Association, is the only local squad in Class A.
As the Lions begin GHSA competition, they’ll bring an old hand into the new league.
John Seehorn, who led the Lions for 11 years but resigned after the 2011 season, returns as head coach this year.
“I had missed it and decided to coach again,” Seehorn said. “We’ve been on the ball for a couple of weeks, and we have had a great time. We don’t have all of the team out yet with four or five who are still playing basketball. We are just trying to work with the kids we have now and are getting a chance to work with a lot of the younger kids.”
The Lions will have plenty of experience back, including sweeper Phillip Jackson, whom Seehorn calls his leader, and fellow senior Joseph Cancelleri. Cancelleri started as a defender as a sophomore, but he missed all of last year because of a preseason knee injury. Now that he’s at full speed, Seehorn said the big question is where to play him.
“He really has a lot of potential all over the field,” Seehorn said. “He would be one of my best defensive players, but he could potentially help us up front or in the middle.”
Junior Hutch Crawford, who has started on the team since he was an eighth-grader, returns up front, while classmate Andrew McEntyre is back at goalie. They will be joined by junior midfielder Hunter Dixon. The 6-foot-5-inch McEntyre is an imposing presence as the last line of defense.
“Andrew started last year, and I really expect him to have a great year,” Seehorn said. “He has matured and grown since last year, and he is getting a lot more forceful and starting to take a bigger role as a leader. He has worked in the offseason, and he has a natural ability you can’t teach.”
Now, it is time to play up to another level of competition.
“Playing in the GHSA will be awfully different than playing in the GISA,” Seehorn said. “We play Darlington and North Cobb Christian, who have great programs and have for years. We played North Cobb in the GISA final four in 2006, and they were the team that put us out.”
Christian Heritage opens the season March 2 at The Walker School.