State success for Grangers
Published 12:20 pm Saturday, April 27, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
In the first of what they hope will be four state-playoff games at Callaway Stadium, the LaGrange Grangers took care of business.
North Oconee made things interesting, but it was LaGrange hanging on for a 3-2 victory on Friday night to advance to the second round of the Class AAAA state soccer playoffs.
The Grangers, who won the Region 5-AAAA championship, could end up playing four games at Callaway Stadium as long as they keep winning.
The only time LaGrange would have to go on the road in the playoffs would be for the state-title game.
Next up will be Thursday’s home game against either Northwest Whitfield or Marist.
“We just have to stay focused, and work hard, and be coachable, and play hard for each other, and they seem to do that a lot,” said head coach Shane Pulliam, whose team improved to 15-3-2.
LaGrange got first-half goals from Josue Recinos and Johnny McDonald, and Jimmy Cancino’s goal gave LaGrange a 3-1 cushion with 24:13 to play.
It got a little suspenseful when North Oconee scored with 36 seconds remaining, but LaGrange was able to run out the clock and secure the state win.
Harrison Hunnicutt assisted on both of the first-half goals, and Jason Recinos had the assist on Cancino’s goal.
“We can beat whoever we want if we have the right mindset,” Jimmy Cancino said. “I think we can go all the way.”
The Grangers took the lead on a goal by Josue Recinos with 18:19 left in the first half.
With 30 seconds left in the first half, the Grangers doubled their lead on a goal by McDonald.
North Oconee had some opportunities in the first half, but it was denied by some outstanding saves by LaGrange senior goal keeper Butler Evans. Evans made two sensational diving saves on balls that appeared headed toward the back of the net.
North Oconee notched its first goal of the game with 29:15 to play, and LaGrange’s lead was down to one.
There was no panic among the LaGrange players, though.
It’s a veteran team that has played a challenging schedule, so the players kept attacking, and five minutes after North Oconee’s goal Cancino banged the ball into the left side of the goal to give LaGrange a 3-1 lead.
“We knew we had to stay relaxed, stay composed,” Cancino said.
North Oconee injected some late-game drama into the festivities with its late goal, but the night belonged to LaGrange.
“They had some good players offensively, and we knew that,” Pulliam said. “And we also knew we played a really tough schedule this year, so we should be ready. They hit their shots, and fortunately we hit ours.”