LAGRANGE – For two consecutive years, the LaGrange Academy boys’ soccer team was on the doorstep.
In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the LaGrange Academy Warriors reached the championship game of the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state soccer tournament, and both times they ended up returning home with the second-place trophy.
As the Warriors took the field in the championship game for a third straight year last fall, they were committed to making sure they’d be the team doing the celebrating this time.
It wasn’t easy, but the Warriors were up to the task.
In a thrilling game, Will Trotter made a goal with less than two minutes remaining to give the Warriors the lead, and they held on from there for a 2-1 victory over a Furtah Prep team that hadn’t lost all season.
The Warriors were champions.
That was the top highlight from a successful 2015-2016 sports year for LaGrange Academy’s sports teams.
Here’s a look back:
AT LAST: Winning a championship is always special.
For a group of players who’d come so close before, though, it perhaps meant even more.
“To finally get over the hump, it meant so much, especially it being my senior year,” said Zach Callaghan, who scored 26 goals last season for LaGrange Academy’s championship soccer team. “It meant everything. It was amazing.”
It was also a breakthrough championship for the team’s head coach, Mike Petite.
Petite has enjoyed tremendous success as a coach for the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at LaGrange Academy, and last week he was leading a team into a championship game for the sixth time.
He was 0-and-5 in the previous five title games, and now he can add championship coach to his resume.
Will Trotter said that’s something the players were thinking about going into the game.
“It’s a big accomplishment, because we’ve been to back-to-back state championships, and we haven’t won it,” Trotter said. “We did it for our school, for our fans, and especially for Petite. He hasn’t won one yet. We definitely wanted to win one for him.”
HARDWOOD SUCCESS: Led by senior post player Whit Moreman, who is set to play college basketball at Troy University, the LaGrange Academy boys’ basketball team had a big season.
The Warriors reached the quarterfinals of the GISA state tournament before falling to First Presbyterian, with Moreman scoring 24 points and pulling down 27 rebounds.
When it was over, LaGrange Academy head coach Britt Gaylor held his final post-game meeting of the season with the players, including the five seniors.
“That was my first senior class playing four years for me,” Gaylor said. “It was a lot of real good relationships I had with guys in that room. It was tough. I hate it for them. But like I told them afterward, we define success as the relationships we build, and if we left everything out there. And we did. We gave everything we had, pretty much the entire season. It was a successful year from that end.”
One of those seniors was Moreman, who delivered quite a parting shot with his dominant performance.
“He kept us in the game,” Gaylor said. “Lincoln (Anderson) and Will (Trotter) got in foul trouble. That took some of our scoring away. Whit just was rebounding everything that went up. He scored 24, and they were all tough baskets. He put everything together in that game. It was fun to watch.”
The success the Warriors enjoyed was especially satisfying considering they didn’t make it to state the previous year after losing in the quarterfinals of the region tournament.
“To me it’s a big deal,” senior Colby Heath said. “It’s a huge accomplishment, especially after last year, losing in the region tournament.”
Added Trotter: “It’s a big accomplishment, especially this being our senior year.”
LaGrange Academy’s girls’ basketball team, which had to replace every starter from the 2014-2015 team that made it to the state quarterfinals, struggled for much of last season.
The Warriors steadily improved, though, and they played their best basketball at the close of the season and they ended up returning to the state tournament.
Head coach Mike Petite said the work ethic of the players made the difference.
“They have the best attitude. They come out here every day ready to work,” Petite said. “The three of us (coaches), we look forward to being out there every single day, because of how much they look forward to being out here.”
HOME AGAIN: For the second straight year, LaGrange Academy’s baseball team finished second in its region to earn the right to host a state-playoff series.
The highlight of the season came when LaGrange Academy beat Brandon Hall 6-5 in a one-game playoff to determine the region’s second-place team.
“That was a big win, beating Brandon Hall,” senior Zach Callaghan said. “It was definitely a big win for us. We hosted last year, and that was the first time we’d hosted state in a really long time. To come back and do it again this year was big, especially with only having nine guys on the team. And one’s an eighth grader, and a couple of guys haven’t really played that much.”
The Warriors were led by their five all-region seniors, including seniors Callaghan, Colby Heath and Payton Barr, as well as Nick Keating and Mason Brown, who will return next season.
NET SUCCESS: LaGrange Academy’s Alex Wilson enjoyed a tremendous run in the GISA Class AA state tennis tournament.
Wilson, the number four seed from Region 1-AA, won two matches to make it to the semifinals where he lost to Milos Orlovic of Furtah Prep, who went on to claim the state title.
Wilson upset Region 3-AA champion Clay Wells of Grace Christian in the first round before beating Tom Waller in the second round to make it to the final four.
In doubles, Kevin Gordon and Franco Feria won a match at state to make it to the second round.
Reach keckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports