Heritage Generals

After taking shot after shot after shot, the Heritage Lady Generals only managed to get two in the back of the net on Wednesday.

As it turned out, however, just one would have been sufficient.

For the second straight state tournament, the Navy-and-Red are moving on to the Class AAAA Elite Eight after a 3-0 home victory over the Red Raiders of Madison County, the No. 4 seed from Region 8.

With the win, Region 7 runner-up Heritage (14-4) will leave the friendly confines of Jeff Sims Field for a state quarterfinal match against Islands High School in Savannah. The date and time for the match had not been set as of press time.

The Sharks are 5-4 on the season and were the Region 3 champions. They collected a 2-0 win over Region 1 runner-up Bainbridge on Wednesday.

"Looks like we're going to be heading all the way across the state, but we're looking forward to it," Coach Kevin Terry said. "We'll get a couple of days to go down (to Savannah), eat, hang out, fellowship and try and get another win. It should be a lot of fun."

Heritage had plenty of fun in the first 13 minutes of Wednesday's match. A pair of goals set the tone on offense, while a stingy defense allowed Madison County very little in the way of offensive chances.

The Red Raiders (8-8-1) actually had the first scoring opportunity in the opening few seconds of the match as a long run got Heritage keeper Lindsay Connell involved in the match early. Heritage would counter with a couple of shots of its own, but the Lady Generals would strike true on their third shot of the evening.

A long throw-in resulted in a ball bouncing free in the middle of the pitch at the top of the 18-yard box. An unguarded Mady Raye Terry quickly moved in to fill the space and one-timed a curving shot into the left side of the net to give her team a 1-0 lead just 3:04 into the contest.

The second goal would come with 28:37 left before halftime as Molly Cason collected a nice pass from Brooke Fairchild about 25 yards out from goal. Cason sped past a Madison County defender and hammered a blast by Red Raiders' keeper Josie Johnson to add to the lead.

There were very few good looks for the visitors in the first half, but they were finally able to move the ball into scoring range with seven minutes remaining. However, Connell was up to the challenge and covered up the shot.

The Lady Generals had three golden opportunities to add to their lead in the final five minutes, including a pair of headers by Terry, but all three shots just missed their intended target and Heritage would take the 2-0 lead into intermission.

The final tally of the evening came early in the second half as more pressure from the Heritage attack led to the dreaded "own goal" by a Madison County defense and a 3-0 Heritage lead.

Both teams were able to get shots on goal in the second half, the bulk of them coming off the boots of the Lady Generals. But Connell made two more solid saves to preserve the shutout, one with 19:30 to go and one with 9:15 left on the clock.

"We really did a great job of dominating possession and getting chances, but those two early goals were huge," Terry added. "Hitting the net early a couple of times sort of relieved some pressure and we were able to relax a little and get some smiles on everyone's faces.

"I was really proud of the girls. They keep getting better and better and keep winning and keep moving on. This is a great group of girls."

Heritage last went to the Elite Eight in 2019, losing 6-1 to Columbus. The last time the Lady Generals advanced to the Final Four was 2013, when they suffered a 7-0 home loss to Marist.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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