Sea Turtles standing tall
Published 10:09 am Tuesday, July 10, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Sea Turtles are looking comfortable on land.
Shane Pulliam, who wrapped up his first season as LaGrange High’s boys’ soccer coach in May, wanted to keep his players involved in the game during the summer.
With that in mind, Pulliam started a new organization called the Sea Turtles that would include not just his players at LaGrange, but boys and girls all the way down to the 8-and-under division.
The various teams, who are all called the Sea Turtles, have been competing in tournaments since early June.
Most of the tournaments, which are held on the weekends, feature a three-on-three format.
The teams practice during the week at the Troup County Soccer Complex, and they hit the road on the weekends to put their skills to the test.
“I’m about trying to help everybody get better,” Pulliam said. “If our guys get better, if the younger guys get better playing the older guys which they always do, then it’s a chance for all of us to get better.”
So far, the various Sea Turtles teams have been standing tall, bringing home a handful of first-place trophies.
Regardless of the outcome, Pulliam said the idea is to improve during the summer, and he believes the three-on-three format is great for the players.
It’s a fast-paced, offensive-oriented game, and as Puliam points out, “there’s no place to hide” on a three-person roster.
“It forces everybody to get better,” Pulliam added. “When you make bad passes, you see real quick what happens.”
Pulliam had a successful first season at LaGrange.
LaGrange finished second in Region 5-AAAA and reached the second round of the state playoffs before losing to Marist.
As much fun as the season was, Pulliam wants more from the program.
He wants to see the Grangers competing for state championships, and he believes a challenging summer schedule will help with that.
The high-school team has also played in some traditional 11-on-11 games this summer.
In June, LaGrange played Riverwood in an 11-on-11 game, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Harrison Hunnicutt, one of the Grangers’ top players last spring, scored his team’s goal.
“We’re wanting to go further at state,” Pulliam said. “We’re ramping up our schedule. We’re playing McIntosh and Starr’s Mill, and going to the Lakeshore Shootout. All of those will be top 10 teams, and nationally-ranked teams that we’ll see. We just need to see better competition. Our guys need to see it this summer so we can figure out how we’re going to play, who’s going to replace the guys that left. We can do it now.”
Pulliam likes the change of pace of the three-on-three format.
Last spring, in fact, LaGrange competed in a few three-on-three tournaments during the season.
It was, Pulliam said, an eye-opening experience for some of the team’s top goal-scorers who struggled to find the net in the three-on-three games.
“They relied on their physical speed for most of their playing career, and they didn’t work on the technical speed,” Pulliam said. “On a big field, they could always create space by being faster. On this field, it’s all technical speed, and speed of thought, and speed of play.”
At his previous coaching stops, Pulliam has always given players in the community a chance to be a part of a summer-time league.
Previously he’s had teams named the Flamingos and the Parrotheads.
“I always have a summery name when I do it, just because I want it to have a summer theme,” Pulliam said. “I’m sitting at the beach (last summer), and talking to coach (Mike) Pauley, and I’m watching the kids play in the ocean, and they’ve got this sea turtle float. It’s bright green, and blue, and I thought if I take this job, that’s a cool name. So I sat down and sketched out what I wanted it to look like, and I went with the people who did our design on our varsity and JV jerseys.”
As for his LaGrange team, there will be some major holes to fill next season with the loss of some talented seniors, including leading scorer Liam McDonald.
The cupboard is far from bare, though.
“We’ll have good players,” Pulliam said. “We still have the mid-field, and we still have a lot of our goal-scorers.”
Most of those players are a part of the Sea Turtles this summer.
Among the players participating are Jack DeVane, Hollis Lester, Logan Metcalf, Winston Herrera, Kaleb Ceja, Jack Doerr, Logan Lopez, Jimmy Cancino, Toni Sosa, Griffin Sanchez, Butler Evans, Mason McPeters and Jason Recinos.
“What they do this summer will help,” Pulliam said. “If we can get the competition up, it’ll force us to raise our level of play.”