Athens Academy’s boys soccer team earned a victory in the second round of the playoffs last week, but head coach Stefan Billmayer wanted a cleaner win.
The Spartans beat the visiting Fellowship Christian School 5-2. There was a brief comeback attempt by Fellowship Christian in the second half, though, that caused for somewhat anxious moments.
Athens Academy was up 4-0 with 18:11 left in the game before Fellowship Christian cut it down to 4-2 with 5:39 to play. An own-goal by Fellowship Christian sealed the win but Billmayer said he wanted to see more energy out of his players throughout the game.
“We were really flat, I think, the whole game,” Billmayer said. “I'm pleased at the win, honestly. But we've got some work (to do). I don't know. I just feel like we haven't really found a groove, especially in that first half.”
The first half was a feeling-out process for both teams before Bennett Slatcher gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead more than halfway through the period.
Then the stalemate resumed.
The 1-0 score held through halftime. Less than 10 minutes into the second half, though, the Spartans found a spark.
Wally Terrell scored on a header off a corner kick to make it a 2-0 game. Lewis Scruggs followed suit just over a minute later to increase the lead to 3-0. Slatcher notched his second goal of the night with 18:11 to go.
“Once we got in a rhythm, I think we worked really well together,” Slatcher said. “We're quick at picking up on their weaknesses, their strengths, and we can analyze it pretty well on the fly. We did that pretty well and got a few goals in there.”
Terrell’s goal ignited excitement at Slaughter Field.
Once it was clear the ball crossed into the net, the fans cheered loudly while Terrell was greeted with congratulatory hugs and hand slaps from teammates.
Afterward, Terrell turned toward the crowd and yelled with them, all the while leaping in the air as he returned to his side of the field to get set for play to resume.
“It's just a lot of emotion coming out at one time, especially when you put it in the net,” Terrell said. “It's really surreal. It's a surreal moment and I'm just happy to be able to have it.”
The late-game lapses were concerning but for the most part the second-round win over Fellowship Christian marked the second strong game in a row for Athens Academy’s defense.
Slatcher said his defensive teammates are always tough to beat but they were especially strong with Ethan Markewitz and Terrell returning from injury.
“They were pressing really well,” Slatcher said about the defenders. “They stepped right on the ball. They're quick and they just didn't let anything through. We got two of our best center backs back for this game; they were injured. It brought a real energy to the defense. That was good to have them back.”
Late in the contest, the Spartans lost Wallace Trapnell due to a red card. The red card carries a one-game suspension, meaning the team was without him this past Wednesday after press time in the third round.
Billmayer spoke with officials after the game and they told him the penalty was due to Trapnell accidentally kicking one of Fellowship Christian’s players while going for the ball.
Even though they were set to be without Trapnell for Wednesday’s game, the Spartans still entered the match with confidence.
Their first two playoff games saw them fight for wins against tough competition. With Wednesday’s Elite Eight game versus The Heritage School looming, the Spartans said they believed their contentious early-round games have them well-prepared for the deeper rounds.
“The better competition you play, the better you get,” Terrell said. “We're seeing that right now. I think, every game, we get better.”