Merida goal lifts Troup past LaGrange for first time in seven years

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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Season defining win. 

Backs against the wall, win and in the playoffs – that is what the Troup boys soccer faced when they stared down their rivals LaGrange High — a team they had not vanquished since 2016 — on Tuesday and came away with a historic 1-0 win at Callaway Stadium.

“I’m so proud of these guys that I can hardly see straight,” said an emotional Eddie Lawson,Troup’s coach, after the game. “I’m so proud of all these guys and especially the seniors. They wanted this.”

It was a cagey match with both teams carving out chances but neither team taking the ones presented to them. When a foul was given in the box with 16 minutes left in the game, Diego Merida placed the ball on the penalty spot and dispatched it in the upper corner to the left of an outstretched arm from Reese Lester. 

“He has taken every penalty kick except one for us in the last four years, and he has missed just one,” Lawson said. “There was no doubt. I had no doubt.”

It was a delayed penalty call that combined with a loud crowd that drowned out the whistle, which led to some confusion among the supporters. Once the dust settled, it was a penalty for the Tigers. 

LaGrange huffed and puffed over the final quarter of an hour and carved out some real quality opportunities but could not find the back of the net. The Grangers did find the back of the net early in the second half but the ball was deemed to have come off the yellow field goal post, which serves as out of bounds before the Grangers forced the ball over the line. 

LaGrange suffered its first region loss of the season, but it does not change the fact that if the Grangers beat Whitewater on Thursday they will be crowned region champions. A loss to Whitewater will leave the Grangers in murky water as it will come down to tiebreakers with LaGrange potentially having to go on the road in the first round of the AAAA state playoffs. 

LaGrange is now 8-8-1 on the season and 4-1 in region play. The Grangers wrap the regular season on Thursday.

Troup is now 9-3-1 overall and 4-2 in region play. The Tigers have clinched a playoff spot for the second straight year. Troup’s regular season finale is on Thursday against non-region opponent Whitewater. 

“This was a true program turnaround,” Lawson said. “It’s taken us five years, but we have turned it around. You’re not going to come in and pencil in Troup as a win. That doesn’t happen anymore.”