Trojans eye return to state semifinals

Split frame of a Carrollton soccer game
Photo: Glenn Holmes

Nick Simon/Times-Georgian 

Just one win separates the Carrollton High School boys' soccer team from a return trip to the Class AAAAA state semifinals.

To once again achieve their final four aspirations, the Trojans must take down a familiar foe when they host Starr's Mill for a Saturday quarterfinal showdown at 8 p.m. on the turf at Grisham Stadium.

Once again, standing as one of eight teams still alive in the state tournament, the Carrollton players are pumped to have an opportunity to dig even further into the bracket.

Just ask co-captain Edgar Gomez, who's been waiting an entire calendar to get back to this point.

"This is something that we've been looking at since last year when we lost year in the final four," Gomez said before practice on Friday. "We have a lot of returning players coming back, so we were hoping that we would be back here and thank God that we are."

One advantage that Gomez and his teammates will have working for them for this and potentially the following round is the comfort of home-field advantage.

The Trojans (17-3) are a perfect 10-0 at Grisham Stadium this season and want to keep it that way.

"This is why you want to win the region. To put ourselves in a position to play these games at home," noted Carrollton head coach Scott New. "One of our goals was to stay undefeated at home and we've taken that very seriously. That's something we've been able to do so far."

Their most recent home victory came in the form of a 1-0 sweet 16 triumph over Clarkston on Wednesday, avenging their loss to the same Angora team in the final four one year ago.

Heading into the second-round battle, senior co-captain Nick Young was certainly looking forward to getting another crack at the visitors from Decatur.

"I'd say they're one of our state rivals now since they put us out last year, so we were looking forward to playing them again and beating them," Young said.

With the sweet 16 now in their rearview, New and his Trojans will prepare for a Region 3-AAAAA champion Starr's Mill (12-7), which Carrollton defeated 3-2 at the start of the season on Feb. 5.

For New, that early-season matchup is practically ancient history as he anticipates an even stronger Panther team coming up to pay a visit on Saturday.

"A lot can happen in a season," New said. "Coach (Jason) Guzzardo pointed out that it will be exactly three months since we played them. Both of us are probably a little different than we were when we started the year off with different players and different positions at this time of the year."

The senior defender Gomez remembered what the Panthers threw at them from their previous encounter on the pitch.

"They finished quickly on us and got two in quick," Gomez said. "We just have to be on our toes the whole game and finish our chances."

But, as always, New has a plan for his guys and like all throughout the spring, it will come down to them executing it.

"We have a pretty good idea of what they're going to do and how they're going to set up, so it's going to come down to us trying to us trying to find the matchups that we like and us trying to play the way we want to play against them," New said. "We want to come out again and really follow our game plan."