LaGrange ready for Marist

Published 11:16 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Daily News

Here we go again.

A year ago, LaGrange High’s boys’ soccer team faced Marist in the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

Marist, which reached the state quarterfinals before losing to Northwest Whitfield, beat LaGrange 5-1 that night.

Those same two teams will once again meet in the second round of the state tournament, although the setting will be different this time around.

Whereas last year’s game was played at the Marist campus in Atlanta, today’s game will be played under the lights at Callaway Stadium, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

LaGrange (14-3-2) has reached this point by winning the Region 5-AAAA championship before beating North Oconee 3-2 in the opening round of the state playoffs.

Marist (11-6-2), the number

three team from Region 7-AAAA, upended Northwest Whitfield 3-1 in its first-round game.

“Last year, we weren’t ready for a Marist,” said Shane Pulliam, LaGrange’s second-year head coach. “This year, with our schedule, we are. We scheduled to be ready for the Marists of the world.”

The Grangers have thrived against that challenging schedule, and they head into today’s game having won 12 of their past 13 games.

“I think last year they were scared of Marist,” Pulliam said. “Now, we’re not as worried about a Marist anymore after having played Oak Mountain, and Hoover, and McIntosh, and Starr’s Mill, and Auburn, and all of those kind of teams. Last year, we really played Cartersville and Auburn, and that was it.”

While LaGrange has won its share of games by blowouts, there have been plenty of suspenseful, down-to-the wire games as well.

That includes a thrilling 5-4 win over Cartersville that was decided on penalty kicks.

The Grangers faced all sorts of adversity in that game, but they kept fighting and secured a win they had to have if they wanted to capture the region title.

“The Cartersville win was huge,” Pulliam said. “We went down 30 seconds, and five minutes later we’re up, and then they tie it, and then we’re up 3-2. They came out at the end of the game and said, we ain’t losing. We’re not losing this game. We’re going to win it in overtime and PKs, but we’re not losing. We never hung our head.”

If helped that the Grangers had senior goal keeper Butler Evans on their side.

Evans stopped three penalty kicks against Cartersville, while LaGrange made all four of its penalty kicks.

LaGrange later beat Sandy Creek 4-1 to finish with a 6-0 region record.

“It’s great, to finally bring it home after getting second my sophomore year, and getting second last year,” said Evans, who shares the goal-keeping duties with Jack DeVane. “To finally win it, we’re writing our book right now.”

The Grangers haven’t had any trouble scoring goals this season.

The Grangers are averaging nearly four goals per game, which is particularly impressive considering the stout scheduled they’ve faced.

LaGrange has three players who have scored at least 12 goals.

John McDonald leads the way with 14 goals, and he’s also tops on the team with 22 assists.

Jimmy Cancino and Robert Reese have 12 goals apiece, and Cancino has 14 assists.

Josue Recinos has nine goals, Harison Hunnicutt has scored seven goals, and freshman Tripp Hollstrom had six goals in 10 games before he was lost with an injury.

Logan Lopez has chipped in with five goals, Toni Sosa has three goals, and Griffin Sanchez has scored a goal.

Most of LaGrange’s players participate in the offseason program as well, and Pulliam believes that has been critical to the team’s success.

“Being a nationally-ranked team in three vs. three, and the confidence that comes from that is big,” Pulliam said. “The U-16 team, they win just about everything at the club level. We have a lot of those players not integrated into this team. So, it makes for a confident group that believes I’m going to put them in the right position to win. They believe it’s going to work and we’re going to get the result we want.”


WHAT: Second round of Class AAAA state tournament

WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Callaway Stadium

HOW THEY GOT HERE: LaGrange finished first in Region 5-AAAA and beat North Oconee 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs; Marist finished third in Region 7-AAAA and beat Northwest Whitfield 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs

UP NEXT: The winner plays either Druid Hills or Richmond Academy in the quarterfinals