Grangers ready for challenge
Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The LaGrange Grangers will try to take down number one.
Marist, the number one Class AAAA boys’ soccer team in the state, will host the LaGrange Grangers today in the second round of the state playoffs.
LaGrange (13-4-1), which finished second in Region 5-AAAA, blanked Lafayette 7-0 last week in the opening round of the playoffs.
Marist, the number one team from Region 7-AAAA, edged St. Pius X 2-0 in last week’s playoff opener.
The winner of today’s game, which will be played at 6:30 p.m., will advance to play either Shaw or Richmond Academy in the quarterfinals.
LaGrange head coach Shane Pulliam’s message to his players is to not worry about Marist’s number-one ranking and winning pedigree and just play their best.
“If you go in nervous and scared, you’re probably not going to do very well,” Pulliam said. “At the end of the game, you need to be able to walk off the field and say there wasn’t one more thing I could have done. You leave it on the field, and you play your heart out for your friends. You’re playing for all your teammates that you sweated and bled with over the past four years, five years. Some of these guys have been together since they started playing soccer.”
The Grangers have thrived in their first season with Pulliam at the helm.
LaGrange is averaging close to four goals per game, and it has scored more than twice as many goals as it did a year ago.
Senior Liam McDonald leads the way for LaGrange with 24 goals, and he has scored in all but one game he’s played in this season.
Robert Reese and Max Halcomb have 12 and 10 goals, respectively, and Harrison Hunnicutt has eight goals, although he’s been slowed with an injury. John McDonald has five goals, Jimmy Cancino has three, and Logan Lopez has two.
Defensively LaGrange has been effective this season, with sophomore Jack DeVane doing a terrific job in goal.
Pulliam has a lot of history with Marist at his previous coaching stops, and he said this team is similar to the previous ones.
“They’re always skillful, and play with a lot of heart, and a lot of pride,” Pulliam said.
It’s a big-time challenge, but Pulliam believes his team is ready.
“I told them, forgot about the rankings, forget about what’s on their shirt,” Pulliam said. “And they don’t appear to be overwhelmed with the situation.”