LaGrange loses thriller

By Kevin Eckleberry

May 11, 2014

The tears told the story.

A season that has been such a spectacularly successful one for the LaGrange High boys’ soccer team ended in heart-breaking fashion Friday night at Callaway Stadium.

A match that began under a heavy downpour ended with Spalding County walking away with a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA state tournament.

The LaGrange players, who worked so hard to reach that point, were predictably devastated when the clock struck zero, and they shared hugs and tears as the realization hit that the season was over.

And what a season it was.

The Grangers went 14-5, they won a region championship with a perfect record, and they won two playoff games to make it to the final eight.

“It was a great season,” LaGrange coach Keita Placide said. “It was one of the best.”

Had the Grangers won, they would have been at home again for the final four, with a chance to play their way into the state-championship match.

It wasn’t meant to be, though.

After LaGrange fought back to tie the game at 1-1 on a brilliant free kick from Matthew Thomas, Spalding County notched the go-ahead goal when Mackenzie Marcoux scored with a little more than 19 minutes to go.

Even though they had numerous chances to tie it, the Grangers were unable to draw even, and in the end it was the Jaguars celebrating, while the LaGrange players were left wondering what may have been.

The Grangers played well on offense, and they generated plenty of scoring opportunities, but outside of Thomas’ free kick, they were unable to convert.

“If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you’re going to get hurt, especially when two good teams play,” Placide said.

The match began with a steady rain that soon enough turned into a downpour.

With 17 minutes left in the first half, Jake Mathis found the net to give Spalding County a 1-0 lead, and that’s the way it remained heading to the halftime break.

When the teams walked back onto the field for the second half, the rain had stopped, and LaGrange was in need of a goal to tie it.

With 28:24 showing on the clock, the Grangers got that goal when Thomas made a free kick from long-distance to deadlock the score at 1-1.

Less than 10 minutes later, the Jaguars reclaimed the lead, and this time they didn’t give it up, and they earned a spot in the final four for the second straight year.

Spalding County coach Scott Henderson said the victory revealed “the quality and character of this team.”

“It was the same thing last year,” Henderson added. “It was Alexander last year at this stage. They just found a way to do it all year long, and last year. It’s impressive, and it was a great match.”

For LaGrange, it was the end of the road for four seniors who have been a big part of the program.

It was the final game for goal keeper Michael Coffman, Jay Free, Nick Hinson and Yimmi Posada.

The future does appear bright, though, with so many talented players returning, including junior Jackson Fagundes, who led the team with 12 goals.

Also returning are Michael Brackett and Griffin Bartley, who each scored 10 goals.

Other returnees including Thomas, whose goal tied the game on Friday, as well as freshman Marat Rosencrants, who provided the go-ahead goal during a second-round 3-2 win over Stone Mountain.

“Hopefully in the near future we’ll get back on the field,” Placide said. “We’ll get ready (for next season).”