Ryan Scoggins has spent most of the 2014 soccer season trying to mold his young Northwest Whitfield boys' team into a playoff contender. Starting today, he will be able to see if all of his hard work has paid off.
The Bruins (7-7-3) will be one of 15 area Georgia programs starting their state playoffs this week; Northwest has a first-round match against Carrollton.
Higher seeds host all rounds of the playoffs, except for the state final at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton. One of the Bruins' neighboring rivals, Dalton, won the 2013 Class AAAA state championship with a win over Southeast Whitfield.
Southeast's Raiders defeated the Bruins in the semifinals last season. Northwest lost 10 seniors off that team and now has a team loaded with underclassmen. The Bruins spent the first part of the season trying to figure out how they would align their team -- including key defender Miguel Villa, who spent time playing forward.
"We needed him to defend, so we decided somebody else needed to figure out a way to score for us," Scoggins said.
The Bruins recently started getting some contributions from their freshman class, with Nicholas Infante and Enzo Lavecchia picking up the scoring slack. Scoggins will need his freshmen to continue their recent success in a road test against a Carrollton team that is perennially one of the top teams in the state. The road, however, is where the Bruins have been their best, with five of their seven wins coming away from their Tunnel Hill home.
"We played a tough home schedule, which is good," Scoggins said. "I tell the guys that I'm not in this to put some record by my name; it's about the experience, and you do that by playing tough teams and by being as challenged as much as you can."
The Ooltewah and East Hamilton soccer teams began the week planning a big test against each other as well as matches against a French U-17 national team. Because of the weather, though, all of that is up in the air.
The Hamilton County rivals were supposed to play against each other Monday in a match with huge District 5-AAA implications, and then both were supposed to play against Sarreguemines FC in preparations for the upcoming district tournament. Ooltewah was scheduled to play the French team today, with the Hurricanes playing the following day.
Now, with the weather pushing back the teams' district match against one another, Ooltewah will now play the Sarreguemines on Wednesday evening, while East Hamilton is hoping to schedule a makeup match before the French team leaves over the weekend.
Ooltewah coach Rick Adolph coached Max Flauder, whose family was in the United States with the Volkswagon plant. He was a member of the Owls for two seasons before the family returned to France. He now on the team and helped schedule the matches.
"He wanted his club team to have a chance to see Chattanooga," Adolph said. "It's pretty exciting to have them here."
Adolph added that the team was planning a trip to Ooltewah today to view the school.
East Hamilton coach John Millard would like to see his team get the opportunity to face the French national team but has more important matters to handle. His Hurricanes are in first place and need a win today to clinch the top spot, but with a loss to the Owls they could fall as far as the fourth seed when the district tournament starts this weekend.
"It's frustrating, because we could have played today," Millard said Monday. "We're hoping to get the match played and it'll be really unfortunate if we don't get to, but we're trying to figure out how right now."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.