The Buccaneers play a Region 5AAAAA game at New Manchester tonight, marking their eighth game away from Buccaneer Stadium in 11 tries this year.
There’s no panic, though, as Allatoona’s excelled in its road warrior role.
The Buccaneers, who are ranked sixth in Class AAAAA, are 9-1 on the year, 6-1 on the road and 6-0 in region play entering tonight’s game.
While it’s not an ideal way to begin the season, Allatoona coach Erik Fridborg likes how his team has approached its situation. The Buccaneers started the year with five consecutive road games and have since played three of the next six away from home.
“It’s nice being at Allatoona and our practice facilities,” Fridborg said. “We can prepare for teams on our grass or turf fields, and that’s helped us because it’s like playing two completely different games depending on the surface.
“And being in Class AAA boys soccer last year was competitive in our old region. There was a lot of traveling then. For us, a game in our old region was at least 90 minutes one way, so this year’s travel is like a walk in the park with only having to deal with Bartow, Douglas and Paulding county schools. When we get there, we find a spot and focus on what we need to do to win.”
Fridborg said the schedule came about the way it did based on available dates with its opponents.
“This schedule just happened this way,” he said. “Last year, in our old region, we played a lot of road games late in the year and we were home early. It’s flipped-flopped this season and just worked out that way in our new region.”
While shorter commutes and proper practice facilities have helped contribute to Allatoona’s strong start, the Buccaneers’ defense has also played a key role in the early victories.
In Allatoona’s nine wins, it has posted six shutouts and given up only six goals. The lone loss during that span was a 6-0 setback at Class AAAAAA power Harrison about a week after the start of the season.
Senior defenders Drew Loconte, Steven Destine and Nathan Shaw have joined junior defender Arty Wollschlager and junior goalkeeper Marcos Castillo as the catalysts on the back end throughout the season. Allatoona has given up 1.2 goals per game on the season, with an average of just 0.67 goals in its victories.
“Our defense is fast, and they communicate well,” Fridborg said. “They trust each other. Destine is smart and plays like the best free safety would in football. He’s the rock and the anchor of our defense. They’re all athletic guys and good at helping to create our offense.”
Senior midfielder Christian Lopez is the team’s leading scorer with nine goals and eight assists through seven games.
According to Fridborg, Lopez has “caused teams some problems,” but it’s really been the entire offensive unit that has made the most of its opportunities.
“We have a lot of different guys that can score,” Fridborg said. “We’re not just relying on one or two guys. Even our back line has put teams away.
“We wear teams down with our possessions and ball movement. The guys that have been with me for four years understand the system and what practice is like. They believe in each other and in our goals and there is a trust and everybody relies on each other. They know their roles and positions and our experience has helped us over the years.”
Experience and unselfishness have also been boosts to the Buccaneers.
“We have a lot of seniors and a lot of leaders,” Fridborg said. “They listen well. We just have a lot of good players on both sides of the ball and no one believes they’re a superstar.”
After tonight’s game at New Manchester, Allatoona will conclude its regular season with five straight home games before a non-region finale at South Cobb.
Fridborg is looking forward to this final stretch.
“The (artificial) turf field at home is bigger, and we know, being at home, we can play our game,” he said. “We know our shape and spacing, and we’re comfortable with how the ball bounces.
“We’re looking forward to those games and trying to win our region. We want to get a banner for the first time. The guys are hungry.”