ELITE EIGHT BOUND: Four goals from Collins sees LaGrange ease into quarterfinals for second consecutive season

Published 10:22 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

For the second consecutive season, the LaGrange boys soccer team is Elite Eight bound. The Grangers put on a show at Callaway Stadium, dominating Southeast Bulloch 7-2.

“It feels really good to go to back-to-back quarterfinals for the first time in school history and hopefully we can keep going from here,” LaGrange coach Shane Pulliam said.  

Aidan Collins was sensational, scoring four goals in the game to lead the team to victory. The junior has really come into his own down the stretch of his penultimate season in Granger blue.

“He had four goals today and the game-winner last round and is really starting to come into his own with this team,” Pulliam said. “He is becoming what we knew he could be.”

Collins put LaGrange in front just 50 seconds into the half when Bruce Martinez chipped a beautiful pass over the Jackets’ defense and Collins finished it with a clinical touch. Martinez is just a freshman and is one of several players who have to step up in the absence of four starters. 

“I thought we started off the game really well, but then we let our foot off the gas and let them back into the game,” Pulliam said. “Sometimes with four starters out it’s tough to respond to adversity, but we are finding a way to get through.

“Bruce was a JV guy for us at the beginning of the year and now he is starting in the playoffs, you just never know what is going to happen.”

Despite the electric start, the first half did not go according to plan for LaGrange. The Jackets worked back into the game and eventually scored on a penalty kick to send the teams level at a goal apiece heading into the break. The Grangers came out inspired in the second half.

“We are able to attack their weaknesses in the second half which was their lack of speed and inability to track runners on the wings, so we were able to get in behind their back line which created a whole lot of issues for them and let us score a whole lot of goals,” Pulliam said. “I reminded them what we were trying to do and to stop trying to do it all by ourselves.”

It took less than four minutes into the second half before Collins was back on the scoresheet, dribbling past the Southeast Bulloch defense and finishing his chance. Two minutes later Elvis Castillo slalomed through the Jackets’ back line and buried the chance in the back of the net to make it 3-1.

The Grangers once again let their opponents back into the match as the Jackets got a goal back 16 minutes into the second half.

“We have given up some soft goals this season and that was another one,” Pulliam said. “It really showed our inexperience in a big game.”

LaGrange showed great character from there and continued to chase goals. Collins restored the two-goal advantage with 12 minutes left in the game. Collins scored his fourth with 7:41 on the clock and Jorge Roblero scored 30 seconds later to make it 6-2. Luis Morales scored with just five seconds on the clock to punctuate the victory.

LaGrange will now await its next opponent. The Grangers will either travel to take on Cedar Shoals or NW Whitfield next Tuesday in the state quarterfinals.