Allatoona lacrosse coach Jonathan Wishon brings a combination of tactical in-game leadership and season-long strategic skills to the Buccaneers’ program.
Wishon said he schedules tough teams for non-area matches early in the season to serve as a barometer for his team’s performance and progression.
“In order for us to be the best, we have to play the best,” Wishon said. “Year in and year out, I try to make our schedule as difficult as it can be by playing some teams from out of state. There’s a lot of really good teams in the state, and we play pretty much all of them.”
Wishon’s plan seemed to backfire when a rash of injuries plagued Allatoona early in the season, leading to the Buccaneers dropping back-to-back matches against Christ School — a North Carolina team that went 14-3 in 2021 — and in-state power Roswell.
After a 2-2 start, the Allatoona finished the regular season 13-2, including an 8-0 area record and the Area 5-6A/7A championship.
“The way that my guys weathered that storm prepared us mentally and physically for the rest of the year,” Wishon said. “I think the fact that we did face that kind of midseason adversity ended up panning out for us.”
Wishon cemented his spot as 2021 Cobb County Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year by leading Allatoona to the Class 6A/7A quarterfinals, where Centennial ended the Buccaneers’ 14-game winning streak in double overtime by a 7-6 score.
Cobb County Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year Sean Byrne had another strong game at goalie, but the Buccaneers could not pull out the victory in the end.
“It was one of those games where it was a shame somebody had to lose,” Wishon said. “Those were the two best goalies in the state, and they played as advertised that night. It was difficult to score on either of them. We always kept our heads throughout the whole process, and even in overtime and double overtime, we had great opportunities to score, and they just didn’t fall.”
The Centennial game was the only close match decided by fewer than three goals that Allatoona lost in 2021, thanks in part to Wishon’s ability to make adjustments and coach his team out of tight spots. The Buccaneers defeated Johns Creek and Greater Atlanta Christian by two goals during the regular season and Harrison and Etowah by one, which Wishon attributed to the team’s ability to keep cool heads under pressure.
“Some of it has to do with coaching, but most of it has to do with the players. It’s just about their character, how they handle adversity,” Wishon said. “That’s all to do about character, because coaches can only take you so far. They can’t play for you.”
Many of those cool heads will not be returning for Allatoona in 2022, as much of the past season’s lineup consisted of graduating seniors. Three attackers, a midfielder and the majority of the defense will need to be replaced.
Byrne, who Wishon referred to as a once-in-a-career type player, will also be moving on to play at Army. That leaves Wishon tasked with turning Allatoona’s young depth into playoff contenders over the coming year.
“There’s going to be some big questions to be answered in the offseason,” Wishon said. “We have some pieces that are coming back. We have a good junior class that will be seniors next year, a couple sophomores that will be juniors and then we actually had three freshmen for the first time ever on our varsity team, so we’re very, very excited to see how they develop.”