They’re the champs.
Behind a typically ferocious defensive effort, the LaGrange Grangers blanked the Columbus Blue Devils 2-0 on Thursday at Callaway Stadium to wrap up the Region 5-AAAA soccer championship.
The Grangers still have one region game remaining against Troup, but the region title is their’s, no matter what happens in that game.
LaGrange got a first-half goal from Griffin Bartley, and Qua Tucker capped the scoring with a second-half goal.
“It feels amazing,” said Jay Free, one of four seniors on the team along with goal keeper Michael Coffman, Nick Hinson and Yimmi Posada. “I’ve been waiting for four years to get this feeling. I knew this team had it in them from the get-go.”
As has been the case all season, the Grangers were stingy on the defensive end.
The Grangers improved to 6-0 in the region, and they’ve won five of those games by shutout.
Since a season-opening 3-1 loss to East Coweta, LaGrange (10-2) hasn’t given up more than one goal in a game.
Columbus had chances to score against LaGrange, but it was unable to make it happen.
When the Blue Devils did get a shot on goal, Coffman was on the spot with eight saves.
“There were times in that game where the tide did turn,” LaGrange coach Keita Placide said “And our boys just seemed to stick with it. I’m proud of them.”
Less than 10 minutes into the game, Griffin came through with a goal on an assist from Jackson Fagundes, and the Grangers were up 1-0.
Considering the strength of LaGrange’s defense, getting an early goal “was huge”, according to Griffin.
“We knew if we could get that first goal and get our momentum going, that we could win the game,” Griffin said.
Free added that getting that first goal was “the biggest thing we could have done.”
“It set the mentality for the whole game,” Free said. “It let them know, we’re not here to play. We’re here to win. We’re not the team we were last year. We’re a way better team.”
The Grangers took that 1-0 lead into the half, and they withstood some serious scoring opportunities by the Blue Devils in the second half.
With 6:17 left in the game, the Grangers got a critical insurance goal.
Tucker took a pass from Fagundes, and he slipped the ball past the Columbus goal keeper to give the Grangers a 2-0 lead.
LaGrange turned away a few more Columbus offensive charges, and when the clock hit zero, the celebration was on.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Griffin said. “This is one of the best seasons we’ve had at LaGrange High. It’s looking up from here. I think we can go all the way.”
LaGrange will take some time off for spring break before returning to the field on April 8 against Spalding County.
LaGrange will look to complete a perfect run through the region schedule on April 11 when it faces the rival Troup Tigers.
“We’ll enjoy our spring break, and we come back and have Troup High after that,” Free said. “We’ll come back ready.”