MCDONOUGH – There were so many players who contributed to Lafayette Christian School’s championship-clinching victory over Westminster on Saturday.
There were the three men who scored, and the midfielders who helped control the ball, as well the defensive players who did a nice job of limiting Westminster’s opportunities.
One of the men who had the biggest impact on the game was the one player on the field who can use his hands.
Junior goal keeper Logan Wright had a magnificent game, making the simple and spectacular saves alike, and he was a big reason why the Cougars won 3-2 to clinch the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state soccer title.
“He had a heck of a game,” said senior Levi McCurry.
Indeed he did.
Some of Wright’s best moments came in the first half after Westminster scored a goal to get within one.
With 15 minutes left in the opening half, Wright made a diving save to keep Westminster from pulling even.
Then with 8:20 remaining in the half, a Westminster player was about five yards in front of the goal, and there was no one between he and Wright.
Wright managed to get his hands on the ball and make the save, preventing what looked like a sure-fire goal.
Wright made a few more saves in the waning moments of the first half, and the Cougars headed to the break with a 2-1 lead.
With 29:05 left in the game, Wright left his feet to make another diving save, and once again Westminster was denied.
Westminster did notch the tying goal with 20:35 to play, but Wright was perfect the rest of the way.
Wright was wrestling with some powerful feelings when he took the field on Saturday, and he went out and delivered a special performance.
“I play this game for a friend that had died,” Wright said. “So, this was an emotional game for me. And last year we made it to (the state finals) and lost 10-1. So there were a lot of emotions.”
LEAVING IN STYLE: The handful of seniors who are members of the Lafayette Christian School boys’ soccer team got to finish their high-school careers in style.
Among that group are two seniors, Sam Marshall and Clay Kelly, who have won three state titles within the past six months.
Marshall and Kelly were members of the football, basketball and soccer teams that all won GICAA championships.
Levi McCurry and Morgan Channell each played football and soccer, and the other senior on the soccer team is Ryan Kinsey.
“It’s my senior year, so it means everything,” Channell said. “We also won in football my senior year. It just means a whole lot. I can carry this with me the rest of my life.
Two of those seniors, Channell and Kelly, scored goals in their final game.
Channell scored the Cougars’ first goal with 20:41 left in the first half, and Kelly made a penalty kick less than a minute later.
MAINTAINING CONTROL: One of the keys to the Cougars’ success in Saturday’s championship game was their ability to control the ball and maintain possession.
For large portions of the game, the Cougars controlled the ball, and they had more scoring opportunities.
That was particularly evident in the 10 minutes of overtime when the Cougars seemed to have constant possession of the ball.
Senior Levi McCurry, one of the team’s defensive standouts, said the players understood coming into the game how important controlling the ball was going to be.
“We possessed the ball,” McCurry said. “We’ve been working a lot on that. If we didn’t possess the ball as much as we did, we would not have had that success.”
NO PANIC: Lafayette Christian had a 2-0 lead in the first half, but it saw that advantage disappear when Westminster scored with 20:35 left in the second half to tie it.
While momentum seemed to be on Westminster’s side at that moment, Lafayette Christian’s players weren’t rattled.
“I think our attitude was, we’d already had them down 2-0, so let’s just get another goal,” goal keeper Logan Wright said.
Most of the players have been through so many big games, including two hard-fought playoff games this year, and senior Morgan Channell said “we’ve learned how to stay calm, stay collected.”
After Westminster tied it, Lafayette Christian was the better team the rest of the way, and it ended up winning 3-2.
BIGGER PICTURE: As the Cougars prepared to play overtime in Saturday’s championship game, head coach Shannon Powell gathered the players together and gave them some encouraging words and asked them to maintain the positive identity they’ve had all season.
“Before the overtime, I told them we’ll do what we’ve done the entire season,” Powell said. “Win or lose, we’ll praise the Lord. Their identity is not wrapped up in however this game comes out.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports