The 2009 soccer season for the varsity teams in Rockdale County featured another slate of games from some of the best players not only in Region 8-AAAA, but throughout Georgia.
Leading the charge of the county's clubs were the No. 3-ranked (Class AAAA) Lady Seminoles from Salem High School.
Salem advanced to the Final Four of the Class AAAA playoffs before being edged by No. 2-ranked Whitewater 2-1 on Tuesday. This marked consecutive seasons of which the Lady Seminoles were knocked out being only two wins shy of clinching a state crown.
The team ended the season with an overall record of 17-4 and won their fourth-straight Region 8-AAAA title after going 10-0 in league play.
"We had a really good year. From the beginning of the season, they had some difficulties playing with each other, but at the end of the season, they really became a team, worked together and did a great job," said Salem girls' head coach Heather Cheek.
Two Lady Seminoles concluded their high school careers with college scholarships at Division I programs. Jordan Young, who will stay in state to play at Georgia and Brittany Beaumont, whose talents will be on display at Clemson.
In addition to its college signees, Salem features four players who were selected to the Georgia Soccer Coaches Association (GASAC) All-Star Game, which will take place on May 16 at Lassiter High School. Among the Lady Seminoles on the squad are goalkeeper Shallon Hobbs, defender Shelby Boggus, midfielder Beaumont and forward Young.
While Salem's girls were the clear-cut dominate team, Heritage boasted the best program with both the girls and boys clinching playoff berths in 2009.
The Lady Patriots were state-ranked throughout the majority of the season, finishing the year at 10-5-4 and in second place in Region 8-AAAA at 9-1.
Heritage clinched a No. 2 seed in the playoffs and defeated visiting Dalton, 3-0, in the first round. The team, however, fell in the second round, losing 6-0 at Marist.
"I'm pleased with the progress we made this season," said Heritage girls' head coach Chad Sudduth. "Of course we would've loved to have made a deeper run in the playoffs, but we realize we had a tough draw. Looking forward, we should be able to paint a very nice picture because we're only losing one starter."
The lone senior starter departing for greener pastures is Constance Bates, who capped off her career by signing a scholarship to play at Columbus State University. She also will compete in the GASCA All-Star Game.
The boys' squad got off to a rough start, but then turned it on down the stretch, winning 10-straight before losing 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs versus visiting Hillgrove to fall to 10-4 overall. Just like its female counterparts, Heritage placed second in Region 8-AAAA at 9-1 behind Habersham Central.
"We placed second in the region, which was an improvement from last year. From where we started, we thought we were really had to come together as one unit and we did that," said Heritage boys' head coach Brandon Stewart. "It did help to see that Hillgrove lost in the Final Four. We lost six seniors from last year and a lot of leadership, but overall, we were very well pleased. Hopefully, we'll build on this for the future."
Heritage's boys group featured two players to ink scholarships this season. Ross Sellers, who will attend Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus and Paul Bates, who'll compete with Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs. Sellers is also slated to participate in the GASCA All-Star Game.
Salem's boys' team started the season hot at 4-1 but later cooled off, finishing in the middle of the pack at 8-9 and 5-5 in league play.
Rounding out the area's teams were the girls and boys from Rockdale County High School.
Rockdale's girls struggled to find a consistent groove in 2009, ending the year at 7-9 and 3-7 in the region. The boys fared worse, going 2-12 with a 2-8 conference mark.