The Buccaneers’ back line thwarted several scoring chances inside the box throughout the second half, and a game-winning goal on a corner kick in the 77th minute was what Allatoona needed to beat Pope 2-1 on Tuesday in the first round of the Class AAAAA state tournament.
“When Pope found the momentum, they looked dangerous, and our defensive intensity picked up,” Allatoona coach Erik Fridborg said. “The desire was there and they were fighting for every ball.”
The third-seeded Buccaneers (11-4-1) will either play at Lakeside-DeKalb or host Apalachee next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pope ended the season with a 12-7 record after advancing to the state semifinals last season.
Allatoona’s game-winning goal came off the head of Gavin McCook, who scored just his second goal of the season. Griffin Rousseau took the corner and hooked it into the box, where McCook was standing for the open header.
“We have three plays out of the corner kick and that was one of the three,” Fridborg said.
Ahead by a goal and still 2:33 left to play, the Buccaneers managed to keep the desperate Greyhounds at bay without allowing them to get another shot off.
Pope had its share of scoring chances in the second half, after the first had ended in a 1-all tie.
Although Allatoona had seven second-half shots to Pope’s six, half of the Greyhounds’ attempts missed by inches, while other scoring opportunities were cleared out of the box before they could get a shot off.
There were also times when Pope got unlucky up front.
The Greyhounds’ Ian VanBuskirk, who took a team-high five shots on goal, rifled one between an Allatoona defender’s legs, only for it to bounce off the left post. Matthew Laferle’s shot bounced off the crossbar 5 minutes later, and then, late in the second half, Pope caught Allatoona goalkeeper Mitch Feathers out of position, only for Luke Scanlon’s angled shot to miss right.
Allatoona’s defense deserves credit as well.
Pope’s Ben Doran had three straight throw-ins into the penalty box, but the Buccaneer defenders managed to clear them out. On another occasion, Amir Bouhaf’s stole a ball from a defender and went 1-on-1 with Feathers, but he instead dished it to Laferle, and the ball was cleared before he got a shot off.
VanBuskirk took another close-range shot that was cleared out by Justin Hilton.
The loss of graduated seniors Zach McCown and Frank Robinson, who combined for more than 20 goals last year, might have shown in Tuesday’s game.
“We got down on them quite a bit and we played them like we were supposed to play,” Pope coach Rich Groeneveld said. “We just didn’t have that striker who is guaranteed 10 goals a year. We won a lot of games by getting the odd-ball goals, and we couldn’t get one to go (Tuesday).”
Allatoona got on the board first in the eighth minute, when Chris Udave booted the ball through traffic from beyond the penalty box, putting the ball in the right corner of the net and out of the reach of Pope goalkeeper Jack Teppin.
Pope’s equalizer that came 8 minutes later, starting on a free kick. Sean Laferle and Hunter Huntcliffe both took shots that failed to go in before Matthew Laferle tapped in the loose ball.