LaGrange soccer team flying high

Published 12:38 am Thursday, March 15, 2018


Daily News

There was no panic.

In their Region 5-AAAA soccer opener, the LaGrange Grangers found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 score in the first half of a road game against Sandy Creek.

The Grangers have shown themselves to be a team that has no problem putting the ball in the back of the net, though, so they just kept going about their business.

LaGrange got a goal late in the first half to get within one, and it exploded offensively in the second half on the way to a 6-4 victory.

LaGrange followed up that thrilling win with a 3-1 home victory over Cedartown on Tuesday to improve to 2-0 in region play.

LaGrange, with new head coach Shane Pulliam at the helm, is 6-2-1 overall, and it has won five consecutive games since losing to Etowah on Feb. 10.

A key to the Grangers’ success has been their ability to convert on the offensive end.

Even though the Grangers had a successful 2017 season and finished 12-3-1, they struggled offensively, and they were shut out in the first round of the state tournament.

It’s been a different story this year.

With the regular season just past the half-way point, the Grangers have already surpassed last year’s goal total.

During the five-game winning streak, LaGrange has scored 23 goals, and that included an eight-goal performance in a win over Callaway.

That’s why, when the Grangers found themselves staring at a two-goal deficit in a key region game, they weren’t worried.

“It’s like all right guys, we’ve got to focus and dig down deep,” said Liam McDonald, LaGrange’s leading scorer.

No comeback was required in Tuesday’s win over Cedartown.

The Grangers had a 3-0 lead late when Pulliam cleared the bench to get some of the reserves some playing time, and that’s when the Bulldogs scored their lone goal.

It was a game where the Grangers scored three goals, but they could have had a whole lot more.

With McDonald and Robert Reese leading the offensive charge, the Grangers had ample scoring opportunities.

McDonald scored all three of LaGrange’s goals, and Reese had two assists.

Senior Austin Stamper also had an assist.

“They were slow in the back, so we decided to go a little quicker,” Pulliam said. “We have Reese, and we have Liam. Generally they can deal with one, but they can’t deal with two. We had a couple of break-aways where Reese didn’t score. It could have easily been 8-1 or 9-1.”

Being able to score in bunches is a nice change of pace.

Senior Max Halcomb remembers how frustrating it was at times last season to struggle so much offensively, and LaGrange was held scoreless in the playoff loss to Chestatee.

“We couldn’t score. That was the problem,” Halcomb said. “We got behind 1-0, and we pushed all of our numbers up, but we still couldn’t score.”

Sophomore Alex Bowie said being able to control the ball has made a big difference.

“I feel like this year we can possess the ball more, especially in the midfield,” Bowie said. “Last year we couldn’t possess it as well.”

McDonald didn’t play last season, but he has returned for his senior year, and he’s happy he did.

McDonald said it’s a tight group, and that everyone is getting along and having fun.

“We’re all pretty close to each other now,” McDonald said. “We’re sitting on the sidelines watching the girls play, and talking to each other, cracking jokes. We just understand each other. Everyone’s excited to play.”

McDonald is one of six seniors on the team.

The others are Halcomb, Hunter Brazell, Mason Jones, Austin Stamper and Grayson Bartley.

“We’ve already had some great memories from the games we played,” Halcomb said. “The atmosphere is great. Everybody’s down to earth.”

Bowie, who started last season as a freshman, said “it’s been great” being a part of this team.

“I always look forward to soccer practice every single year, and this year we’ve got so many seniors,” Bowie said. “Last year we only had one senior.

“So it’s been a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to all the rest of the games.”

While the Grangers have things rolling now, Pulliam said there’s still plenty of work to do, and that he’s always working around with the lineup to find the right mix.

“We’re trying to figure out where our best players play together on the field,” Pulliam said. “We’re trying to tinker with that.”

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