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Coach builds power at GAC

Not to say that Greater Atlanta Christian's boys soccer program wasn't a state power before Thom Jacquet arrived as head coach, but its biggest accomplishment was a state runner-up finish.

In the ever-powerful fall league. In 1983.

Now the Spartans play soccer in the spring, and they do it as consistently well as anybody in Class AA/A. On Friday night, they'll play Pace Academy for the state title, a sign of how the sport has become increasingly important at GAC.

The coach who preceded Jacquet at the Norcross private school stepped down and followed his son to Parkview, a school that offered the player a much higher level of soccer. Now the difference between Parkview and GAC isn't nearly as substantial.

And much of the credit for that goes to Jacquet, a Bible teacher who is in his 15th season at the school.

"(Jacquet's) meant a great deal to the success (of the soccer program)," GAC principal Bill Burton said. "He actually starts with the kids in middle school and works with them in the junior high years. He's been a key element for us."

Jacquet loves soccer, a passion he's instilling in his sons Jack and Beckham, who can be seen at every GAC game wearing some sort of soccer jersey. And yes, Beckham is named after English star David Beckham.

The coach also loves Manchester United and modeled his program's logo after that club when he redesigned it several years back. He regularly takes his GAC players - this year's trip was in April - to England on Spring Break for soccer and missionary work. They watch clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal and get to tour England, even more reasons why it's good to be a GAC soccer player these days.

The playoff success also is pretty fun.

GAC, a state playoff regular, won its first state soccer title in 2000 under Jacquet. His team's record isn't always sparkling (12-8-1 this year), but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Jacquet purposely sets up a brutal schedule to get ready for the postseason. After Tuesday night's semifinal win, he was discussing a possible game next year with Grayson's Scott Luthart, who coaches a AAAAA playoff team.

Luthart's willing to schedule GAC because he knows the program is no pushover. Not anymore.

"We've had soccer since 1969, the second year of the school," Burton said. "But our program, since Thom has joined us, has certainly blossomed."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnett

dailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.