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Cougars are chasing another ring

School seeks third state championship

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

The Lafayette Christian School soccer team will play for the GICAA state championship on Saturday in McDonough. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_soccer1.jpgThe Lafayette Christian School soccer team will play for the GICAA state championship on Saturday in McDonough. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

Lafayette Christian School’s Sam Marshall heads a ball during practice on Thursday. Marshall is looking for his third state championship this school year. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_soccer2.jpgLafayette Christian School’s Sam Marshall heads a ball during practice on Thursday. Marshall is looking for his third state championship this school year. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

The Lafayette Christian School Cougars scrimmage during practice on Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s title game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/05/web1_soccer4.jpgThe Lafayette Christian School Cougars scrimmage during practice on Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s title game. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

LAGRANGE – They’ve been here before.

A year ago, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars made it to the state-championship game, and they hosted King’s Academy at Callaway Stadium.

The night belonged to King’s Academy, which rolled to the victory to secure the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state title.

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Lafayette Christian’s boys’ soccer team will get another shot at a championship.

Lafayette Christian and Westminster Christian Academy, who have each won two games in the state tournament, will meet at Creekside Christian Academy in McDonough to determine soccer supremacy in the GICAA.

It’s a veteran team, and head coach Shannon Powell said the objective since opening day has been to return to the title game.

“From Day 1, we wanted to go back to the state finals,” Powell said. “With the experience of being there, I think it really helped the guys that were on that team, to know that we can get there. So that’s been our focus the entire season is to get there.”

Now that the Warriors have made it this far, they’ll look to finish the deal and give the school another championship trophy.

Already this school year, Lafayette Christian has won state championships in football and basketball, and senior Sam Marshall believes the soccer team can keep that trend going.

“I think what killed us last year was we played Kings Academy, and we thought there’s no way we can beat them,” Marshall said. “So we lost before we touched the field.”

That’s not the case this year, according to Marshall.

“We know we can win this,” he said. “We can do it.”

Lafayette Christian, which won a region championship in the regular season, began the state tournament by beating Providence Classical Christian Academy 3-0.

Morgan Channell had a pair of goals for the Cougars, John Turton scored one goal, and the defensive delivered a dominant effort.

On Tuesday, Lafayette Christian was on the road for the a semifinal showdown with Horizon Christian Academy.

In a game that featured two region champions, Lafayette Christian built a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Turton and then held on for a 2-1 win.

Horizon Christian Academy’s only goal came when it converted a penalty kick after a Lafayette Christian player was called for a handball.

Even though it was a one-goal game, the Cougars dominated, and now they’re a victory away from winning it all, and Powell believes the team is at its best right now.

“We had some of the same players, but it’s a totally different dynamic,” Powell said of this season’s team. “I’ve got a lot of young players this year, and also with some players that came in, Clay (Kelly) as a senior, and some other new players, just some players that gave us a different dynamic. So even though we had that goal (of playing for the title), it’s taken us the entire season to get ready for it.”

Marshall said “we found our chemistry about midway through the season. We found out this is where everybody needs to be. It started to flow a lot more.”

Powell said the Cougars’ record isn’t as good as it was last spring, but that’s because he put in place a more challenging schedule, which he believed would better prepare the team for a possible title-game showdown against an elite opponent.

“We don’t have the record we had last year, but we also chose this year to play better teams, outside of our conference, knowing that we would probably lose to those teams, but it’s more experience,” Powell said. “We played the team that beat us in the finals last year. We scheduled that for the end of the season. They beat us 5-1. But that’s invaluable, knowing that there are better teams than us out there, better skilled than us. It makes you think about what you’re doing.”

Powell said Kelly, a senior who is playing soccer for the first time at Lafayette Christian, “has brought a lot of control to the field,” and that third-year player Morgan Channell and Turton have also had strong seasons.

Logan Wright has handled most of the goal-keeping duties this season, and he has been spelled occasionally by senior Levi McCurry, who is a first-year player.

“I wish we had him a couple more years, but he’s really come on as a strong defender,” Powell said of McCurry.

If the Cougars do pull it off on Saturday, a handful of players who played football, basketball and soccer will win a third state title in the past seven months.

Marshall, who is one of those players, said the experience the players gained in those other sports helps when it comes to dealing with pressure situations.

“There’s pressure in almost everything you can do,” Marshall said. “When you compete for a championship, there’s a lot of pressure. We’re confident.”

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports