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Girls' soccer: Bryan County on brink of winning region title
The Redskins need to beat Metter at home on Friday night by 2 or more goals to cinch the Region 3A-D1 title.
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Coming off a 14-day break in which it got a mental and physical recharge, the Redskins put themselves in position to win the Region 3A-DI championship Tuesday night when they blitzed unsuspecting Claxton, 5-0, at Redskins Field.

Bryan County (7-5-1, 5-2) can win that improbable title when it takes on first-place Metter (8-3, 6-1) at 5 p.m. Friday at home. The Tigers, who beat Screven County, 1-0, Tuesday are ranked No. 8 in the state.

Metter beat Bryan County, 3-1, in double overtime earlier this season and the Redskins need to win by two or more goals. If they win by three, they’re region champs; win by two and tiebreakers will determine the championship.

“Who are we right now?” coach Kristen Barnhill said after the game. “Man, we’re something. I’ll tell you that.

“These kids have been playing hard all year,” Barnhill said. “I’ve been telling them all year this is it, that it’s possible:  this is the year we go out there and get the respect we know we’ve earned.

“This is our seventh win, the most wins in a season in program history, it guarantees us a second-place finish and we’re going to have a state playoff game. I couldn’t be happier for these kids.”

The fact the Redskins are in position to play for a region championship is remarkable in itself considering where the program—girls soccer started in 2014—was when Barnhill, now in her third season, took over.

In her first two seasons the Redskins twice endured 10-game losing streaks but everything for the young team—there are only four seniors on the roster—has started falling into place this season.  

Sophomore Liz Harvey scored three goals—believed to be a single game record for girls soccer--to lead the way. Harvey said she had scored as many as five goals in a travel ball game but this was the most she has had in a high school game.

Harvey’s hat trick, paired with a first half goal by junior Reese Raeburn to go with a Claxton own goal, turned an “if” game into a day at the beach. (An own goal is when an opposing player accidentally kicks the ball into their own net.)

Bryan County’s last game was on March 12, a 1-0 win at Woodville-Tompkins, and the break, Barnhill said, helped.

“We were able to get some people back from injury and we were able to tighten up some stuff, midfield defensively, work on our touches, work on switching the ball,” Barnhill said. “They did great out there today.

“They executed everything we had been working on. The break enabled us to take a breath. It was a good mental recharge.”

Bryan County controlled the game throughout against a team which has dominated it over the years. In their first ever meeting eight years ago the Redskins had beaten Claxton but the next win didn’t come until this year, a 1-0 victory at Claxton.

Based on that game, and a Claxton win over Metter, no one knew what to expect in the rematch. As it turned out there was a lot of worry about nothing.

Goalkeeper Skylar Lee, with a strong midfield defense in front of her, easily fended off the few Claxton scoring opportunities and Harvey proved to be unstoppable. She also had at least three other scoring opportunities where she just missed.

Bryan County led 3-0 at the half and Harvey made it 4-0 when she scored with 9:17 remaining and four minutes later she put in the clincher when she soared a kick high and to the left past the defenseless Tigers goalie.

Claxton, the defending region champion and once ranked as high as No. 5 in the state this year, was never able to mount any kind of threat. The Tigers have been shutout twice this season, both by Bryan County.


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Bryan County's Reese Raeburn (5) with Raleigh Thurston (15).
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The Bryan County girls' soccer team after win against Claxton. Photos by Mike Brown.
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