Big season for Grangers’ McDonald
Published 11:50 am Thursday, May 30, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERY
Johnny McDonald had a respectable sophomore season for the LaGrange Grangers, scoring a handful of goals for a team that reached the second round of the state playoffs.
McDonald took his game to a new level this season, leading the Grangers in goals and assists while helping them win the Region 5-AAAA championship and once again advance to the second round of the playoffs.
For his good work, McDonald was selected as the region’s player of the year.
McDonald was one of 13 LaGrange players who made the all-region team, and five of them were first-team selections.
Also, Shane Pulliam was named the region’s coach of the year after leading LaGrange to a 14-4-2 record.
McDonald led the Grangers with 15 goals, and five times he scored two or more goals in a game, and that included a three-goal performance against Brookstone.
“He finished as our leading goal scorer, and leader in assists,” Pulliam said. “He really had a great year, and he’s coming off last year where he had five goals and four assists, and went to 15 goals and 22 assists. He was just a work horse in the midfield for us, creating, defending.”
McDonald came up big in some of LaGrange’s most important games.
In a dramatic 5-4 win over Cartersville that was decided on penalty kicks, McDonald scored a goal in overtime.
In a 4-1 victory over Sandy Creek that wrapped up the region title, McDonald produced two goals.
McDonald also had a goal in a 3-2 win over North Oconee in the first round of the state playoffs.
“He was the captain to boot,” Pulliam said. “So he really stepped up this year for us and pulled everybody together and worked hard and kept everybody working hard. It really paid off for him, just having a great year.”
Also making the first team for LaGrange was senior Jimmy Cancino, who was second on the team with 13 goals and 14 assists.
Cancino had two goals during the championship-clinching win over Sandy Creek, and he also had a goal against North Oconee.
Freshman Tripp Hollstrom is also a first-team all-region player, even though he missed more than half the season with an injury.
In 10 games, Hollstrom scored six goals and had four assists.
Winston Herrera, a standout defensive player for LaGrange, is a first-team player as well.
Herrera had one goal and six assists.
LaGrange’s final first-team player is senior goal keeper Butler Evans, whose shining moment came in the Cartersville game.
The game was tied 4-4 after overtime, so it came down to penalty kicks.
Evans stopped three of the fourth penalty kicks he faced, and LaGrange made all four of its penalty kicks to win it and take a huge step toward a region title.
Before the penalty kicks, Pulliam let Evans know how confident he was in him.
“I told him in our huddle, you’re going to make two or three saves, and you’re going to win it,” Pulliam said. “And he did.”
Eight other talented LaGrange players were honorable-mention selections.
That group includes senior Robert Reese, who was third on the team with 12 goals, and he also had five assists.
Reese had half of his goals in two games, scoring three goals against Kendrick and Troup.
Senior Harrison Hunnicutt had seven goals and six assists, and two of those assists came in the state win over North Oconee.
Josue Recinos, another one of LaGrange’s dynamic offensive players, had 10 goals, and he scored against Cartersville and North Oconee.
Logan Lopez had five goals and six assists, and Tony Sosa had three goals.
Defensive standouts Alex Bowie and Miller Devane, along with goal keeper Jack DeVane, were also honorable-mention picks.
Troup has six all-region players, including two first-team selections, Helsyn Martinez and Antavious McCarden.
The shining moment of the senior season for Martinez came when he scored all three of his team’s goals in a 3-1 win over Griffin.
McCarden, one of the team captains, anchored Troup’s defense.
Troup’s honorable-mention players are Neil Patel, Sirwan Gardi and goal keeper Graham Finlay.