USAU held it’s Georgia High School Championships last weekend at Georgia Soccer Park. With national powerhouse Paideia opting not to play in three straight tournaments (they previously played Paideia Cup and Terminus) the field was wide open for the teams and it was certainly evident by the level of play that the Georgia teams were aware of this opportunity.
In the B division (for JV teams and new programs) Lambert High School from Suwanee, GA won with a perfect 6-0 record. Despite having only 2 reported games coming into the weekend and being a new team to the Georgia High School Ultimate scene the team used great teamwork and well timed in-cuts to move the disc efficiently. Defensively they were able to use a large and deep roster to play aggressive man defense down the field with little drop-off from one player to the next as the heat (90 degrees on Sunday) tired out teams with shorter lines. Decatur High took second in the B division losing only to Lambert. Decatur used their size to their advantage shutting down opponents deep games and using quick transition hucks to score. Parkview High School, out of Lilburn, GA, took 3rd by avenging an early season loss to Brookwood JV in the last game of the tournament 10-6. Brookwood JV (Snellville, GA) had tired after playing 5 games over the weekend previously and wasn’t able to run with Parkview. Brookwood JV’s loss put them in 4th with Woodward JV, Academe of the Oaks, and Druid Hills High School finishing 5th-7th (some scores unreported).
In the A division it was clear that all the teams were aware of the stakes and teams were working hard to try to win the Georgia Championship. Pool A saw a three way tie for first place with Lakeside, Woodward, and Brookwood all beating one another. On Saturday Brookwood raced out to an 8-4 lead over Lakeside only to see that disintegrate under pressure for Lakeside’s strong zone defense and patient offence quarterbacked by Joe Bogan and Jaques Pervivier. Lakeside came back to win 13-10 on the last game of the day and left Brookwood searching for answers. Fortunately for the Brookwood Inferno they were able to find them Sunday morning in the 1v2 game against Woodward. Knowing they needed to win the game by 5 or more to take the 1 seed out of the pool (Lakeside had lost to Woodward on Saturday by 2) Brookwood came out using some malleable zones that seemed to confuse Woodward with their flexibility. Brookwood used patient offense and solid in-cut after in-cut to work the disc into the endzone with little turns. The star player for Brookwood for this game was their team as a whole. A commitment to playing together allowed them to spread the field offensively and defend the field in unison. With a 7 point victory Brookwood secured the 1 seed, Lakeside took the 2 seed, and an exhausted Woodward was left with the 3 seed coming out of pool play. Last year top 4 finisher Riverwood wasn’t able to match last year’s success but did manage to upset Chamblee High School to earn the 4 seed.
Pool B had little drama as the top three seeds maintained their positioning. Grayson nearly pulled off the upset over Grady losing 11-8 despite the best efforts of Grayson senior captain Gino Mattice. Heritage High School (Conyers, GA) was able to lean on coach Mark “Patches” Cuson’s leadership and experience and upset AIS (Atlanta International School) and Ben Franklin Academy to take the 4 seed. Collins Hill used their big throws and big/fast receivers to put the pool away with relative ease. Tony Gochett was again flying all over the field getting big D’s and pulling down deep shots from Sam Lannon. Lannon and Josh Bilecky took their turns pulling in deep shots using their size to pull in the floaty deep shots for which Collins Hill is known.
This set up quarters as: Brookwood vs Heritage, Grady vs Woodward, Lakeside vs Grayson, and Collins Hill vs Riverwood. The 1 seeds of Brookwood and Collins Hill had little trouble with their opponents winning handily 13-5 and 13-4 respectively. Both teams were able to open their lines up in an attempt to save the starters legs for the semis and hopefully finals. Grady vs Woodward looked on paper to be the toughest quarters matchups by far. Woodward previously lost in the finals at Deep Freeze and Grady was a top 5 finisher at both Deep Freeze and Terminus. Unfortunately Woodward had suffered too many injuries over the last two weekends and the final score of 11-8 isn’t reflective of how Grady was able to cruise to a win in the cap. Lakeside and Grayson fought hard in their quarters match as Danny Stevenson of Lakeside played with tons of tweaky injuries but Lakeside was able to win in the cap 12-10.
Semis were set: Brookwood vs Grady and Collins Hill vs Lakeside. Collins Hill didn’t have much difficulty breaking Lakeside’s normally stout zone defense and won in the cap 10-5. The Brookwood vs Grady game was (only slightly biased, here) the game of the weekend. No team ever had more than a 2 point lead and the game sat tied at every turn. Brookwood seniors Neal Raines and Kenny Seymour made great defensive plays to keep Brookwood in the game and a switch from zone to man enabled Brookwood to push Grady to the limit. Grady senior Felix Jaffin and Caleb Shorthouse rose to the challenge. The cap horn sounded at 9-8 and after a couple of turns both ways Grady found a receiver in the corner of the far end-zone and celebrated a second straight appearance in the Championship game.
Brookwood and Lakeside still had something to play for; however. With an annual good-natured rivalry and third place on the line Brookwood looked to avenge Saturday’s upset and Lakeside wanted to prove their win earlier was no fluke. Brookwood came out using flat zones that forced a tired Lakeside to stay on the field for long periods of time with the hope of tiring them further. It was successful early as Lakeside’s zone couldn’t stay together after turns and Brookwood’s Mike McGinnis exploited hole after hole in the middle of the field for easy yards repeatedly. Just as they did on Saturday Brookwood took half 7-3. The second half again mirrored Saturday’s game with Lakeside storming back using stout defense. Danny Stevenson was able to set his floaty pulls in the back of the endzone and rejuvenated legs in the cup forced a lot of high pressure throws and Brookwood was forced to take greater risks than they had earlier. Lakeside was making a comeback and was at 9-7 when the hard cap sounded. Both teams fought for the last point for several minutes but Lakeside was able to score the bittersweet last point and the game ended 9-8 with Brookwood taking the 3rd place trophy.
In the championship game Grady found ways to limit the deep game of Collins Hill and forced them to make a lot more passes than they were accustomed. Offensively Grady avoided the deep shots but used their quickness and sharp throws to work the underneath consistently with Shorthouse, Jaffin, and Glick finding one another and keeping the disc moving. By limiting Collins Hill’s deep game and using a patient offensive strategy Grady was able to lengthen the points. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough as the cap went on mid-point with Collins Hill up 8-7. Grady fought hard to get the disc back and punch it in but turned it over and Collins Hill found a man deep in the far end-zone for the score and the Georgia State Championship.
Feature photo by Christina Schmidt (UltiPhotos)