Playoff Preview: LaGrange, Troup County, and Callaway all send the boys and girls teams to the state playoffs

Published 9:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2022

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All six local soccer teams from the three public schools (Troup, LaGrange, Callaway) have booked their spot in the playoffs. None of the teams finished lower than the third seed in their region as it was one of the most successful years in Troup County soccer history. This is a testament to how much the sport has grown in the area as well as how serious these schools now take the sport that was once an afterthought.

LaGrange Girls

The Grangers girls soccer team ended the regular season at 8-10 overall and 7-1 in the region under the stewardship of Jon Callahan, who is in his first year as head coach at LHS. The record is a bit deceptive as the Grangers have played a tough non-region schedule this season to challenge the girls and see where they stand against some of the top teams in the state.

The Grangers were 10-6-1 overall last season but did not take on nearly as difficult of a non-region schedule. They also finished 7-1 in the region last year but lost to Columbus 4-1 to finish second in the region. This year the Grangers gave Columbus all they could handle in their home stadium and pushed for a late equalizer before losing 2-1 to finish second behind Columbus once again.

LaGrange lost a close match in the round of 16 last year 2-1 to Perry. The first round saw them advance as there were not enough teams from Region 3-AAAA to fill out the bracket.

The Grangers are led in the attack by Sam Cottle and Karley Perry, who will have to be on their A game if the Grangers aspire to go deep in the playoffs. The Grangers will host West Laurens in the first round on April 14. West Laurens finished the season 8-5-1 after going 0-10 and getting trounced in the first round of the state playoffs last season.

Troup County Girls

This is the first time the Tigers have made the playoffs in successive seasons. The Tigers finished the regular season 7-8 overall and 5-3 in the region to grab a third seed. Troup County is led by Eddie Lawson who’s helped grow the soccer program at the school.

The Tigers have improved tremendously after finishing last season with a 2-6 record and getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs 1-0 by New Hampstead.

Troup County will be riding some momentum into the playoffs as it has won the last three games played. After losing the first three games of the season the Tigers have gone 7-5 over their last 12 games. The team is starting to gel at the right time with the biggest game of the season next week.

The Tigers will be putting a lot of pressure on Felicity Gill to score goals as she is one of the leading scorers in Tigers’ history. First year goalkeeper Haley Kitchens has been a stalwart at the back and will have to come up big if the Tigers are to make some noise in the playoffs.

The Tigers will take on Spalding, who finished the season with a 9-6 record. Spalding lost in the first round of last years’ playoffs to Bainbridge 3-0. Unfortunately, the Tigers will have to be on the road after earning a third seed.

Callaway Girls

The Callaway girls have had a record-breaking season this year as they already eclipsed the most wins in school history. This is head coach Mike Petite’s first year as head coach of the girls’ team and he has them firing on all cylinders this season. The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a record of 16-2 overall and 4-2 in the region.

The Cavaliers only two losses on the season were against Bremen, who finished runner up in the state title game a season ago.

Callaway hosted Banks County in the first round of the playoffs last year and fell 4-2. The Cavaliers finished last season 6-13 overall and 3-3 in region play to finish second in the region.

The Cavaliers will be hosting a playoff game this season and will be looking for a better result. They are scheduled for a first round matchup at home against Dede County on April 14. Dade County is 10-4-1 overall with a game pending. Dade County is experiencing a massive turn around after going 4-11-1 last season and missing the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are riding a five-game win streak heading into the playoffs but cannot underestimate an improved Dade County if they are to make a deep push in the playoffs. The Cavaliers have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2018.

Callaway is led by Kate McAteer and Keeley McGuffin, who each tied the single-game goal record with six goals earlier this season.

LaGrange Boys

The LaGrange boys have been on a tear this season as they finished the season ranked third overall in the AAAA classification. The Grangers lost to the no. 1 team in AAAA (Columbus) 4-3 and beat the no. 2 ranked team (Southeast Whitfield County) 3-1.

It has been an impressive season for the Grangers under the leadership of Shane Pulliam as they cracked the top 25 ranked teams in the nation multiple times this season.

With a non-region game pending results, the Grangers have a record of 12-3-1 and 7-1 in region play to finish second in the region behind Columbus and earn a first-round home game.

Going into the final regular season game, Davis Knight led the Grangers with 23 goals and 16 assists. Tripp Hollstrom was second on the team with 12 goals and 14 assists playing out of position in the midfield as he plays forward for his club team. The Grangers will also be without star defensive player Bryce Kuhn, who is suspended for the first game of the playoffs.

LaGrange won the region last year but fell in the second round of the playoffs to East Hall by a score of 3-1.

The Grangers will be hosting Perry on April 15. Perry has a 14-3 record, pending a final result in its last regular season game. Perry’s worst result of the season was a 3-1 loss to Spalding. Perry lost to Cairo in the first round of last year’s playoffs 3-1. This game should be tense as Perry is ranked no. 8 in AAAA and has only conceded nine goals through 17 games.

Troup County Boys

Troup County’s boys have been enjoying their best season under Eddie Lawson so far. The Tigers have accumulated an 11-3 record overall and 6-2 in the region to earn a third seed in the playoffs.

Troup County lost to Columbus and LaGrange by a combined score of 9-0, but there is no shame in that as they are two of the top three ranked teams in AAAA. Outside of those games, the Tigers have only suffered one loss in the opening game of the season against Northgate.

The Tigers could be peaking at the right time as they ride a three-game winning streak heading into the playoffs, outscoring teams by a combined 23-1 in that stretch.

The Tigers improved on a 1-9 showing last year as they lost 7-0 to Benedictine in the first round of the playoffs.

Troup County is led by the soft-spoken Merida brothers, who take four spots in the starting lineup. Senior Dennis Merida is the teams’ best defender and keeps things tight at the back. Twins Diego and Luis form a partnership further up the pitch to help the team create goals with freshman Augusto chipping in where needed. Dennis Merida has been outstanding in goal this season and will likely need to keep up his hot form if the Tigers are to make a deep run in the playoffs.

The Tigers will be traveling to Griffin to take on Spalding on April 15. Spalding is 13-3 on the season with their biggest loss coming against West Laurens by a score of 4-3. Spalding lost to Bainbridge 5-3 in the first round of the playoffs a season ago.

Callaway Boys

Just like their female counterparts, the Cavalier boys broke the regular season win record this year as they accumulated a record of 14-2-1 and 4-2 in the region to finish second place.

Mike Petite has been in charge of the boys team now for five seasons and has finally molded the team into exactly what he wants from a soccer team, high pressing with a high back line.

The Cavaliers only two losses this season came against region foe Bremen, who was in the semifinals of last year’s playoffs.

Callaway was 6-12-1 last year and got walloped by Riverside Military Academy in the first round 6-1.

This year’s team is led by junior Nelson Herrara, who bosses the midfield and leading goal scorer Joston Raymundo. Nitler Recinos has put on a show in goal this year and his ability to stop shots will be key for the Cavaliers heading into the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are ramping up for the playoffs as they head into the tournament on a five-game win streak and have won seven of their last eight games.

The Cavaliers will host Model on April 15. Model is 8-6-1 overall on the season. Model was 12-7-1 last season and lost to Bremen in the second round of the playoffs. Callaway has one common opponent with Model this season: Temple. Callaway beat Temple 4-2 and 4-1 while Model beat them 5-0. This is shaping up to be a tough opening match for the Tigers but playing in front of the home fans might be just the boost they need in a game that figures to be decided by fine margins.