Championship on the line for Grangers
Published 1:21 pm Thursday, April 19, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The high-flying LaGrange Grangers will hit the road today hoping to come away with a region championship.
LaGrange, which is averaging close to four goals per game, will visit Cartersville today with the Region 5-AAAA title on the line.
Both teams are 5-0 in the region, and the winner will earn the number one seed for the state playoffs, and the loser will be seeded second.
LaGrange was in this same position a year ago, and it lost to Cartersville 3-0 on its home field.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said sophomore John McDonald, who had three assists in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Auburn. “We lost to them last year, and I really don’t feel like getting second again.”
Sophomore Jack Devane, who helped LaGrange get the shutout against Auburn, said the players just need to keep doing what they’ve done all season.
“We’ve just got to keep it cool, and play our game,” DeVane said. “If we can play like we have in some of the better games we’ve played, we feel pretty confident.”
Part of that confidence comes from having an offense that has been prolific.
Senior Liam McDonald leads the scoring parade with 23 goals, and he has only played in one game this season where he didn’t score a goal.
McDonald has seven multi-goal games this season, including the Troup game where he notched four goals.
Senior Max Halcomb has scored nine goals, and he’s top on the team with 12 assists.
Robert Reese has eight goals with eight assists, and Harrison Hunnicutt has scored seven goals.
John McDonald has four goals, and he has five assists, with three of them coming in the win over Auburn.
Logan Lopez and Griffin Bartley have two goals apiece, and Jimmy Cancino and Kaleb Ceja have also scored.
LaGrange is under the direction of new head coach Shane Pulliam this season, and he has guided the team to an 11-3-1 record.
LaGrange has won 10 of its past 11 games, and it got an impressive 3-0 road win over Auburn on Tuesday.
“If we have the mentality we had last night, we should come back with the win tomorrow,” said Cancino, who played at Troup last season before transferring to LaGrange.
LaGrange and Auburn were tied at the half, and Pulliam let the players know he expected more from them in the second half.
“It was 0-0, and we’d taken six or seven shots on goal,” Pulliam said. “I said look, we’re getting closer to the playoffs and a region-championship game. You’ve got step it up. You’ve got to raise your level. You’ve got to play quicker, cleaner, and take better shot selection around the box. And we scored 20 seconds into the second half.”
While the Grangers have shown the ability to score goals in bunches, they’ve also been getting it done on defense, and DeVane is a big part of that.
The sophomore has settled into his role as the starting goal keeper, and he has excelled.
“The biggest thing that I was looking forward coming out of the summer and seven-on-seven was consistency (out of the goal keeper),” Pulliam said. “We’re changing how we play, and playing out of the back, we’ve got to have a goal keeper that’ll make good decisions on the ball, since we’re using him out of the back.”
LaGrange closes the regular season with a home game against Smiths Station on Friday.
LaGrange will host a first-round game in the Class AAAA state playoffs next week.