After all their toil and trouble, and stress and strain the Grangers received some applause from their loyal soccer fans.
It was a form of recognition for a good season and a great game. Unfortunately for the LaGrange High boys it come right after the Grangers lost to the Chestatee War Eagles, 1-0 in overtime in the first round of the Class AAAA State Tournament on Wednesday night at sun-baked Callaway Stadium.
The final score was numbing for everyone on the LaGrange High side, especially head coach Keita Placide.
“This (game) broke my heart. It stung me. But I’m proud of them. We had an awesome season. We did everything correct (in the final game). We have a lot of potential,” said Placide. “We were prepared.”
The Grangers played some “bump and grind” defense for 80 minutes of regulation play and 10 more minutes in the overtime. Austin Stamper and Winston Herrera played some harsh and unforgiving defense for LaGrange High.
Goalkeeper Butler Evans also came through with his usual seven to eight saves for the Grangers. LaGrange High was on the threshold of winning in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We played our hearts out. Both teams wanted it. But they had some luck, and they possessed the ball,” Granger forward Hunter Brazell said of the War Eagles.
Chestatee still had a difficult time scoring against the LaGrange High boys in the first half, the second half and even in overtime. The War Eagles took 20 shots on the night, and just one ball got past the big hands of Evans.
“LaGrange frustrated us. They’re a very good team. They moved well, and they stymied us. We had our opportunities. But we didn’t back down. We worked hard to get the ball in the box, but we didn’t work any harder than LaGrange,” said Chestatee head coach Michael Herrin.
But sooner or later somebody was going to win this playoff grudge match. Somebody did. In the second of two 5-minute overtime periods, Chestatee junior forward Juval Duran broke the ice and the hearts of the Grangers with a goal from six yards out.
That score came with 1:43 left in the game. Freshman defender Jeyson Garcia had the assist on the War Eagle goal. But Duran had most of the heroics, and he had the game-deciding goal in the State Tournament.
“We had touch and combinations. We didn’t give up, and this is an amazing feeling,” said Duran. The War Eagle season was extended by one game. Chestatee went back to Gainesville with a 9-7-1 record. The LaGrange High boys meanwhile filed out of the stadium with a seasonending record of 14-3-1.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer