From a humble start in 2009, going 6-3 before suffering back-to-back losing seasons, the Buccaneers have followed the age-old script and slowly developed themselves into a winning program with state playoff aspirations the norm.
Last season was Allatoona’s first as a state playoff team. The Buccaneers, who went 11-8 overall, squeaked into the playoffs as a No. 4 seed. They didn’t stay long, however, falling to eventual state champion Lambert in the first round.
The lessons learned from last year’s state playoff appearance have since driven Allatoona to its best season yet.
The Buccaneers, who took a 13-4 record into Tuesday’s regular-season finale with Harrison, went 7-1 in Area 2A-AAAAA. They challenged Westminster for the area title, but fell 13-6 to the Wildcats on Saturday.
“We started off playing well, but then we had some injuries at midfield and up front before the half,” Allatoona coach Jonathan Wishon said of the game with Westminster. “We tried some different things on defense to change things up, but we started falling behind and gave up some goals late. It was a hard-fought game.”
Despite the loss, Allatoona concluded the regular season as the area runner-up and is slated to host its first state playoff game next Tuesday.
With only six of 10 starters returning from a year ago, jumping from a No. 4 seed to challenging for the area title this season was a surprise to some.
Not to Wishon.
“We had some key seniors, like Cody Sorrells at midfield, who came back, and our second-leading scorer, Ryan Tesler, also returned,” Wishon said. “We have a fine group of freshmen in Danny Tesler and Mike Johnson contribute, too, which has given us a spark. Plus, junior attack Dylan Lowenstein, another one of our leading scorers, was also back.
“We returned our first-line midfield from last year, so those guys returned with an extra year of experience under their belt, which helped, and the young guys have pushed the older guys in practice, which has helped make everybody better.”
Ryan Tesler leads the team with 43 goals to go with 17 assists. Lowenstein has 39 goals and 19 assists, while Sorrells has 17 goals and 10 assists.
After last season, Allatoona graduated several players on offense and defense, so Wishon wasn’t sure how things would turn out. He quickly found out, though, that the team was more capable than it looked.
The Buccaneers started the season on a seven-game winning streak that turned into 11 wins in their first 12 games. An unknown defense turned into a stout unit, having held teams to fewer than 10 goals in 14 games.
“The defense has bought into the system and our way of doing things in practice,” Wishon said. “They’ve made the commitment to do well and communicate.”
Wishon was quick to add that community coach Mike Clagett has also had a pivotal role towards the development of the team.
“He’s a big factor in us doing well,” Wishon said. “He’s the guy with the college experience and schemes, and his help has been key.”
Injuries haven’t dampened the resolve of the Buccaneers who are looking forward to the playoffs. Johnson, a midfielder, went down with a collarbone injury April 13, but Wishon hopes to have him back by the playoffs. Sean Sieman, a senior midfielder, is also playing through a high ankle sprain. He has 17 goals and 13 assists.
“Hosting a state playoff game — this is something we’ve never experienced,” Wishon said. “We’re going to have to play great lights-out defense and get the ball into our scorers.
“When we play our best, we’re tough to beat. Lots of the teams in our classification have been beating up on each other, so if we can play our game, we have a shot at doing some damage.”