Last season, Richmond Academy's boys team won a share of the area's first public school state soccer championship.
Consider that a seed planted. It's hard to imagine what sprouted this spring.
Aquinas and South Aiken join the Musketeers this year as area teams playing for a boys state title today.
"Isn't that awesome?" South Aiken coach Paul Waters said. "We wish Evans and Greenbrier could have made it too. The fact three CSRA teams are playing for their respective state titles earns a lot of respect. I hope everybody can bring it home."
Aquinas plays host to Savannah Christian in the Georgia High School Association Class A/AA final at 5:30 p.m. The Musketeers get Flowery Branch in the GHSA Class AAA title game at 7 p.m. at ARC Stadium. South Aiken's title match against Irmo will start at the same time at Stone Stadium at the University of South Carolina.
"Some of our guys will take advantage of the staggered start," Aquinas coach Kevin Kennedy said. "They are going to go to Richmond or up I-20 to cheer on the guys they know from club soccer in their championships."
Aquinas (18-4-1) is in the state title game for the first time.
"I couldn't act as a carpenter without really good materials," Kennedy said. "This is my fourth year and my first senior group. I have to thank all the club coaches in this area who have taught these guys so well year-round."
Aquinas has been clearly motivated this year after losing in the 2004 quarterfinals to Greater Atlanta Christian on a goal with 16 seconds to play. It's essentially the same roster from last year.
"It taught us to stay focused and for 80 minutes," Kennedy said.
South Aiken (22-1-1) also has reached the title game for the first time. The Thoroughbreds have arguably the best offensive-defensive tandem in the state in Mike Gustavson and striker Jamal Geathers. They face an Irmo (22-2-1) team they beat 2-1 earlier this season.
"It was a real hard-fought game against one of the top programs in the state," Waters said. "They had a red card early and played us with 10 men most of the game."
Richmond Academy (16-4-2) seeks to repeat as champion a year after its 1-1 draw with Grayson in last year's final.
"I got an e-mail from the Grayson coach this week saying he knew my guys learned how to share in elementary school," Richmond Academy coach Chris Hughes said. "He wanted to let us know this is the time to go earn what we deserved last season."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Area boys teams playing for state titles tonight:
Georgia Class AA/A Final
Savannah Christian (19-2-1) at Aquinas (18-4-1), 5:30 p.m.
Georgia Class AAA Final
Flowery Branch (11-6-2) at Richmond Academy (16-4-2), 7
South Carolina Class AAAA
FinalIrmo (22-2-1) vs. South Aiken (21-1-1) at University of South Carolina, 7