Young Spartans fight hard, but fall in overtime

ATHENS -- The Greater Atlanta Christian boys soccer team saw its season and defense of last year's state title come to an end on Tuesday night in the second round of the Class AA/A state playoffs.

The Spartans grabbed an early 1-0 lead following Denzel Clarke's sixth-minute goal, but failed to score the rest of the way and fell to Athens Academy 3-1 in overtime.

With the score tied 1-1 in the fifth minute of the first overtime period, Athens Academy's Billy Pate netted the game-winning goal thanks to a rather favorable rebound, ending a 65-minute scoring drought.

Athens Academy added its third and final goal of the game with just 10 seconds remaining in the second overtime frame to send the Spartans home empty-handed.

"There's nothing to hang your head on," GAC head coach Thom Jacquet said. "It was a great game (and) we played well. When you come out and play poorly it's something, but we didn't play poorly. We just lost so there's nothing to hang their heads ... they played great."

Clarke's goal was his second of the playoffs and team-leading 18th of the season but it wasn't enough as GAC missed several opportunities down the stretch to put a relentless Athens Academy team away for good.

"We had chances sometimes they go and sometimes they don't," Jacquet said. "We had some great chances, (but) we were unlucky and they had some good chances too and they didn't finish as well so going into overtime we felt like it was probably fair at the time to be 1-1. We just had a hard time putting it away but when you're creating chances you can't fault that."

Without a single senior on the roster and eight new starters, Jacquet was pleased with his team's effort all year long. He is also well aware of how important the experience was for all of players.

"In the end it'll only serve us for next year," Jacquet said. "Our juniors were seniors (and) those guys have been on the field for the biggest games we've ever played so we had seniors they just weren't seniors. We had good leadership from the first day we started practice and I didn't think that was ever a problem.

"Halfway through the season we were really struggling. To be able to turn it around and get into the state playoffs we got a lot of experience that we wouldn't have gotten if we didn't make the playoffs so that can only help us for next year obviously."