Memorable Senior Night as Panthers clinch playoff spot

Published 9:25 pm Saturday, April 1, 2023

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AMERICUS – Due to a tiebreaker situation, the Sumter County Varsity Boys Soccer Team (SCHS) faced a must win situation when they took the pitch at Alton Shell Stadium on Friday night, March 31, in their regular season finale against Cook High School (CHS). Fortunately for the Panthers, they were able to score three goals in the first half and set the tone for the rest of the match on their way to clinching a state playoff berth with a 4-1 victory over the Hornets on a memorable Senior Night for SCHS seniors Creighton Meyers, Francisco Tovar, Evan Garcia and Ary Flores.

The victory ensures that the Panthers (10-8, 6-6 Region 1-AA) will be the third seed out of Region 1-AA in the upcoming GHSA Class AA state tournament, which will begin for the Panthers on Friday, April 14 on the road against the #2 seed from another region.

Sumter County sophomore striker is Anthony Duque scored one of the Panthers’ four goals in their 4-1 win over Cook to qualify for the state playoffs.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

This victory was also special due to the fact that SCHS had lost several close games throughout the season, including a loss on the road to Jeff Davis in penalty kicks back on Friday, March 24. According to SCHS Head Coach Michael Pepito, that week off between games was beneficial to his club.

“The luck part of it was we didn’t have a game till Friday, so the first part of the week, we were able to get some good practices in,” Pepito said. “There were so many games this year where we lost in overtime. We lost in penalties. We lost by one point. I mean, we’re just on the verge and so getting the kids to understand that we’ve got to start the game from the beginning and finish strong, got to bring the intensity, got to play our game, no setbacks and then a positive return will happen. That’s kind of what happened tonight,” Pepito continued.

Sumter County senior forward Ary Flores is seen here competing for the Panthers. Flores scored on a penalty kick in the win over Cook.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In the 10th minute of play, the Panthers’ Ary Flores sent a pass into the 18-yard box to Creighton Meyers, who was fouled inside the box, which resulted in a penalty kick for SCHS. Flores stepped up and converted the PK to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Six minutes later, SCHS added to its lead when Leo Diaz sent a ball across the face of goal and Anthony Duque was there to blast the ball past the Hornets’ keeper, making the score 2-0 in favor of the Panthers.
Four minutes later, Meyers had a chance to give SCHS a 3-0 lead, but his shot was saved by the CHS goalkeeper. Nevertheless, with 2:30 to go before halftime, Meyers would bag his first goal of the match and the Panthers would have a 3-0 lead.

Sumter County senior forward Creighton Meyers scored two goals in the Panthers’ 4-1 win over Cook to qualify for the state playoffs.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In the 53rd minute of play, Meyers would put the finishing touches on the Panthers’ state playoff-clinching victory when he scored his second goal of the match.

Late in the game, the Panthers were awarded another penalty kick, as a foyl occurred in the box, but Kavon Hart’s PK attempt went wide of the net.

Sumter County sophomore defender Jose Perez competes for the Panthers against Cook.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

CHS wound get a goal late in the second half from Fernando Fernandez, but the Panthers would go on to secure their 4-1 victory over the Hornets and their spot in the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.

CHS finishes its season at 6-10 overall and 5-7 in the Region 1-AA standings.

The Panthers will await their opponent in the first round of the upcoming state playoffs and that game will be on the road at the #2-seeded team of another region. Stay tuned to the Americus Times-Recorder for further updates.