Rockdale County is the second smallest county in Georgia, stretching out to 130 square miles but, two of its high school girls' soccer teams cast a large shadow throughout the state.
The Salem Lady Seminoles and Heritage Lady Patriots not only find themselves atop the standings in Region 8-AAAA, but they're also state-ranked, with Salem slotted at No. 4 while Heritage falls in at No. 7 in the latest Class AAAA poll.
Salem's rise to the top is the result of its strong commitment to defensive pressure with a relentless pursuit to score on every
possession. In March, the Lady Seminoles went 8-2 with five shutout victories. They also scored in double figures on four different occasions, beating up the competition by an average margin of 6.62 goals per game during this stretch.
Salem's loaded roster is anchored by lockdown goalkeeper Shallon Hobbs. While Hobbs guards the net like it's an armored cash truck, she is protected up front by host of marquee players including Emily Boggus, Ashley Parker, Mariel Smith, and Casey Echols.
"The girls know what they need to do to make the state playoffs and that's their goal. They are very excited and ready to meet any challenge," said Salem girls' head coach Heather Cheek.
While Salem's girls are the queens and toast of the school, at Heritage, both teams have made it a habit of experiencing the thrill of victory.
During a recent outing, the Lady Patriots edged out crosstown rival Rockdale County 1-0 to improve to 9-2-3 and 9-0 in league play. On April 3, Heritage and Salem squared off in a duel of stateranked clubs with first place in Region 8-AAAA up for grabs.
In the end, the Lady Seminoles were victorious, pulling out a 3-1 triumph.
The Lady Patriots feature a veteran-laden team that is completely focused on capturing a state title led by senior midfielder Constance Bates, junior goalkeeper Melissa Drish, junior midfielder Brittany Gray, junior forward Nadia Bryan and junior defender Lindsey Sutton.
"Our team's success (up to this point) is based on the fact that we return so muchexperience from last season - we have 15 players (8 starters) off of last year's state playoff team," said Heritage girls' head coach Chad Suddeth. "That group came up on the short end of some very close and important matches. That experience, added with a very challenging schedule this season, has helped to create the ‘battle tested' team that we have now."
The Heritage boys completes the school's two-headed soccer monster as the Patriots currently stand in second place in Region 8-AAAA. The Patriots posted an undefeated 6-0 record throughout the month of March during which they outscored the opposition 17-2. This impressive run has created an abundance of confidence within the locker room and it's spilled over onto the field.
"The players have enjoyed themselves on this great run of six wins," said boys head coach Brandon Stewart. "Our team works very hard in training. They have truly bought into the concept that the team is more important than any individual on our squad. We are 20 players working toward one goal of taking each game as it comes."