Last updated: March 27. 2014 1:35AM - 647 Views
By Kevin Eckleberry

LaGrange's players turn up the defensive pressure during a game this season. LaGrange hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the season opener.Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
LaGrange's players turn up the defensive pressure during a game this season. LaGrange hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the season opener.Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
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The LaGrange Grangers are hoping to celebrate a region championship tonight.

To make that a reality, the Grangers will have to get the best of the rival Columbus Blue Devils.

First up will be the girls’ game at 5 p.m., and that will be followed by the boys’ showdown at 7 p.m.

If the Grangers beat the Blue Devils, they’ll have the Region 5-AAAA soccer championship in hand.

The Grangers (9-2 overall) are 5-0 in the region, and they would assure themselves of the region’s top spot with a win tonight at Callaway Stadium.

“If there’s any game I would tell anyone to come to, I believe (today) would be that game,” LaGrange coach Keita Placide said. “I’m really excited. Coming home and trying to win that region title is so special. You have home advantage, and with the fans you have a 12th man.”

The Grangers are in this position largely because of a suffocating defense that is among the best in the state.

Since a season-opening 3-1 loss to East Coweta, LaGrange hasn’t given up more than one goal in a game, and Michael Coffman has been a rock at goal keeper.

The Grangers have been especially stingy in region play.

They didn’t allow a goal in their first four region wins, and they gave up one goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Sandy Creek.

“I was going over the stats of the top-10 teams, and we’re one of the teams that has given up the fewest goals in the entire state,” Placide said. “We’ve worked on that for the past year. In order to win a title, region and state, you must have great defense.”

Standing between LaGrange and a region title is an always tough Columbus team.

The Blue Devils lost 15 players from last year’s team, but they’ve kept right on rolling this season, and they’re also perfect in the region.

Columbus won its first nine matches before playing Brookstone to a scoreless tie on Tuesday.

“I think it will come down to who can hold out defensively,” Placide said.

While the Grangers haven’t lost a region game, nothing has come easily.

After back-to-back 2-0 wins over Alexander and Shaw, LaGrange beat Carrollton 3-0.

LaGrange then edged Fayette County 1-0 before beating Sandy Creek 2-1.

“Our region, I would say it’s second to none,” Placide said. “We play teams such as Carrollton, Columbus, Fayette. These guys are still playing phenomenal. I believe that some of the kids we play again can honestly go to Division I schools.”

While defense is the Grangers’ calling card, they have been getting it done on the offensive end as well.

Michael Brackett has a team-high eight goals, and he scored his team’s long goal in the 1-0 win over Fayette County.

Jackson Fagundes, who missed some time with an injury but is back at full strength now, has seven goals.

Griffin Bartley, who had both of his team’s goals against Sandy Creek, has five goals, and Yimmi Posada has two goals.

Jay Free, Kyler Hall, Nick Hinson, Joseph Lee, Matthew Thomas and Qua Tucker have also scored goals for LaGrange.

After today’s game, LaGrange will take some time off for spring break before getting back on the field for a game against Spalding County on April 8.

LaGrange’s final region game will be against Troup on April 11.

LaGrange could beat Columbus and lose to Troup and finish in a tie for first in the region, but it would hold the tie-breaker edge.

“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever had, and I think we can take this further than we have in the past,” Placide said. “I’m really ecstatic.”

First up today will be the girls’ game, and the Lady Grangers could be playing for their playoff lives.

LaGrange fell to 2-3 in region play with Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Sandy Creek.

If the Lady Grangers lose today, they wouldn’t be able to finish any better than 3-4 in the region, and that may not be enough to secure one of the region’s four playoff berths.

Sophomore Reagan Peters continued to have a strong season with a goal against Sandy Creek, and she now has 19 goals this season.

Lauren Yates is next for LaGrange with six goals, and Alaina Tomlinson and Alex Davison have three goals apiece.

Beating Columbus will be a tall task for LaGrange.

Columbus finished second in the state a year ago, and it appears headed for another championship run this season.

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