The Greyhounds, which advanced to the semifinals last season, will have to get through Cobb County rival Allatoona in the opening round Tuesday at home. If they prevail, they may have to go on the road at No. 3-ranked Lakeside DeKalb in the second round.
If Pope (12-6) can get healthier by Tuesday, the better its chances.
“The last five games of the season were all games when we had players out,” Pope coach Rich Groeneveld said. “There was a lot of stress over the last five games.”
Two of those games were one-goal losses to Region 7AAAAA rivals Creekview and Northview, which put the Greyhounds as the region’s No. 2 seed going into the postseason.
A combination of illnesses and injuries have consumed a few of Pope’s players including leading scorer Matt LaFerle, who should be cleared to play against the Buccaneers. The Greyhounds are also hoping for the return of midfielder Hunter Cutcliffe and defender Thomas Griffen.
Allatoona had to reload after losing 14 seniors to graduation last season and needed to plug in several vacancies with freshman players. But the Buccaneers (10-4-1) still managed to finish third in 5AAAAA and all their region losses were by one goal.
The Buccaneers can score – they averaged more than three goals a game during the regular season – but defense has been a challenge.
“We’ve been working hard at practice to get the defense more organized,” Allatoona coach Erik Fridborg said. “It’s been tougher than we thought. We lost 14 guys (last season) and two other juniors got hurt and we lost them. We’ve been plugging holes with freshmen, and they’re doing well.”
Allatoona’s success will depend greatly on the performances of its seniors – midfielder Gavin McCook and defenders Justin Hilton and Arty Wollschlager.
All three Cobb County teams in Region 5AAAAAA qualified for the state tournaments with Walton as the top seed, Lassiter No. 2, and Wheeler No. 3.
The Trojans (13-5) suffered a shocking first round loss to South Gwinnett following an undefeated season a year ago, but this year’s team seems unfazed by the memory.
“This is a fresh group,” Lassiter coach Sam Dietrich said. “Sometimes stats don’t dictate who wins the game. The only thing we can control is how hard we work, and hopefully we can get the results that we want.”
No. 7-ranked Lassiter will host Peachtree Ridge on Tuesday, and could have a serious test against top-ranked Brookwood on the road in the Round 2. Wheeler is at No. 6-ranked Duluth.
Walton, ranked No. 2, is hosting Norcross and is on the path to meet 4AAAAAA champion and last year’s semifinalist Harrison in the quarterfinals.
But the Raiders know they have to get there first and are hoping Noah Langub is ready to go for Norcross. Langub, one of the team’s fastest players, has been out of action since the Lassiter game earlier this month.
Harrison has also been shaking up with injuries but coach Jonathan Gross said his Hoyas are getting healthier and should be close to 100 percent when they host Newton County.
Campbell, who has five players with 10 goals or more, will host Alcovy as 4AAAAAA’s No. 2 seed. North Cobb and Hillgrove are No. 3 and No. 4 and will play at Luella and Druid Hills, respectively.
In Class A, North Cobb Christian qualified as Area 7As No. 3 seed and will open at Fellowship Christian on Thursday. Mount Paran Christian gets a bye after winning Area 7A and will play the winner of Paideia or Lakeview Academy in the quarterfinals May 6.
Newton at Harrison
Norcross at Walton
Hillgrove at Druid Hills
North Cobb at Luella
Wheeler at Duluth
Alcovy at Campbell
Peachtree Ridge at Lassiter
Allatoona at Pope
NCC at Fellowship (May 1)