The Highlands varsity soccer team has had an amazing season and it isn't over yet. On Saturday, the Highlanders hosted the second round of the state play-offs and was able to move past the 14-5-1 Blue Ridge Bobcats.
Highlands entered the contest with a 21-3-1 record with their only losses coming from Tuscola High School, Franklin High School and Rabun Gap Nacoochee School. Despite those losses, the Highlanders went undefeated in their conference winning the Smoky Mountain Conference Championship. In the first round of the playoffs they hosted the Cherryville Ironmen, winning easily by a score of 5-1.
Their next contest against Blue Ridge was not much different except that they were able to keep the Bobcats scoreless and add a goal to their previous total to win with a score of 6-1. The win allowed them to advance to the third round of the playoffs yesterday [Wednesday] where they took on the 12-9-2 Elkin High School Elks. Last year's season ended in the third round.
Coach Chris Green has been the varsity coach for five years. Most of the players have been under Green's guidance for the majority of their high school career since Highlands does not have a junior varsity team. Before Wednesday's game against the Elks he said that he anticipated a close match.
“Their team is better than what their record shows. They are a 2A/1A team so they play bigger schools while we just play 1A schools for the most part,” said Green.
This year's team is made up of four seniors. One of them, Tyler Munger, was up for sharing a few thoughts about the season he's had.
“I really think it's been a great year. In the four years that I've played, I think this one has been the best yet,” he said. As far as Wednesday's match, he agreed with Green's assessment of the contest and the opposing team. “I definitely think it's going to be close. They're better than what their record shows, but I think that our team has what it takes to pull it out.”
If Highlands was successful in their bid against Elkin, they will play again Saturday. The venue is to be determined. The 1A State Championship will take place on Nov. 15.
“We hope that after a few more wins, we'll be playing in it,” said Green. “Right now, we are playing our best soccer. It's good timing for us because we're hitting our peak.”
As for next year's team, Green says that he thinks the school will be in line for another good season.
“We'll be losing our four seniors who are key players, but we've got some strong players and I think that our team will do well next year, too,” he said.
According to MaxPreps.com, the Highlands Highlanders are currently ranked at number five in the state out of 92 1A teams.