They took care of business.
Facing the Cedartown Bulldogs in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament on Tuesday at Callaway Stadium, the LaGrange Grangers rolled to a 3-0 victory to keep their state-championship hopes alive.
The Grangers were clinging to a 1-0 lead when they got a pair of second-half goals from Jackson Fagundes to clinch it.
The Grangers (13-4) will be back at home on Tuesday against the winner of a first-round game between Stone Mountain and Chestatee.
“It’s been four or five years since we’ve had a good deep (playoff) run,” LaGrange coach Keita Placide said. “Now we got past the first one. It’s one game at a time.”
The Grangers couldn’t have scripted a better start to Tuesday’s game.
It took them less than a minute to score a goal and put the Bulldogs in a 1-0 hole.
On a free kick from about 40 yards out, Matthew Thomas placed the ball just over the Cedartown goal keeper’s head, and the ball bounced into the net just 48 seconds into the game.
“It went in, I was so happy,” said Thomas, who has two goals this season, both from about the same location. “It was a great boost to get a goal that early.”
The Grangers continued to get good looks at the goal throughout the remainder of the first half, but they were unable to pad their lead, so it was a 1-0 game at the break.
The Grangers came out in the second half and continued to attack, but the Bulldogs hung tough for awhile.
“We got a little frustrated, but we persevered, and in the end hard work always pays off,” Placide said.
With the Grangers getting so many scoring opportunities, it figured to just be a matter of time before they scored again.
The inevitable happened with 22 minutes left in the game when Fagundes found himself in a one-on-one situation with the Cedartown goal keeper.
Fagundes made a nice move to get around the goal keeper, and he was confronted with a wide-open net.
Fagundes tapped the ball into the net with his left foot, and the Grangers were up 2-0.
The Grangers had dominated the game to that point, but with a thin 1-0 lead, anything can happen.
With a two-goal lead, Thomas said “we knew it was over.”
The Grangers kept putting the pressure on, and with 5:20 remaining, a Fagundes shot attempt glanced off the right goal post.
A minute later Fagundes got another good look at the goal, and this time he ripped the ball past the keeper, and the Grangers had an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
“All we’ve been working on is finishing, and scoring,” Fagundes said. “Tonight we finished.”
After the third goal, Placide emptied the bench and got all of the players in the game, and when the clock hit zero the Grangers celebrated a state win that’s been a long time coming.
None of the current players had ever been a part of a team that won a state-playoff game.
As satifisying as the win was, though, Thomas said it “was just another game. We just have to keep going.”
The Grangers have had a phenomenal season, and now they’re one of just 16 teams left standing in Class AAAA.
“The team’s in form. Everybody’s just playing together,” Fagundes said. “It’s great.”