MOULTRIE — When the Colquitt County and Tift County soccer teams meet on Friday in Tifton, the two teams will be facing what Packers coach Randall Balch considers an early playoff match.

The winner will advance to the state playoffs as the No. 4 team from Region 1-AAAAA.

The loser will join Coffee High as the two teams from the region not making the postseason.

“This is a playoff game,” said Balch, whose team is 6-10 overall and 3-6 in the region. “It’s our playoff.”

The Blue Devils are 2-7 and with a victory would have the same 3-7 record as the Packers. But Tift County has the tiebreaker by virtue of a win on March 15 at Mack Tharpe Stadium at Tom White Field.

At the end of 90 minutes of soccer, the match was tied 1-1. But the Blue Devils won the penalty kicks battle 3-0 to get the victory.

Tift County had lost its first three region matches and now, more than a month later, the victory has put the Blue Devils in a spot to claim a playoff berth.

The Blue Devils will be playing in front of their home fans as they attempt to get back to the playoffs.

“They will be coming in like, ‘We beat you once. We’ll beat you again,’” Balch said. “But this is a must-win for us. And it’s a big rivalry: Colquitt County against Tift County.

“We’ve just got to find a way to win.”

Colquitt has had trouble putting ball in the opponents’ nets this season.

In their 16 matches, the Packers have scored just 32 goals, and 15 of those came in one non-region victory over Dougherty.

In their nine region matches, the Packers have managed just nine goals.

The Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over Coffee on April 11, but were shutout 3-0 by Houston County on Tuesday.

The Bears got a bad-hop goal just three minutes into the match and held the lead until five minutes remained.

Colquitt lifted keeper Michael Murray to help get him ready for tonight’s much-more important match and the Bears were able to tack on two late scores.

Houston will go the state playoffs as Region 1-AAAAA’s top seed. Valdosta will be No. 2.

“We’ve just got to play like there’s no tomorrow,” Balch said. “If we don’t get it done, it won’t get done.”

The Colquitt County girls would like to avenge a 6-0 loss to the Lady Devils when they take the field in today’s 5:30 p.m. opener. The Lady Packers are 12-4 overall and 6-3 in the region.

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