It happened a lot during the regular season, but the Trojans were able to respond more often than not. It led to a 16-3 record and berth in the Class AAAAA state championship.
Much like during the regular season, Lassiter fell behind Milton and trailed for most of the game before tying it up twice to force overtime. The Eagles, however, scored the game-winning goal in the extra session and claimed the title with a 10-9 win at Frank Fillmann Stadium.
“That was an emotional loss at the end,” said Lassiter coach Brendan Leezer, who is entering his second season as the Trojans’ coach. “That was a weakness of ours last season. We don’t want to let those goal deficits happen again. We need to control the field and possessions.
“We want to be aggressive and have leads and keep them. Last year, we were good at rallying back, even in that championship game, but I’d rather play with the lead.
“So, we’re using that as motivation because we don’t want to go through that again. We want to be back in that spot, but not clawing back. We want to be the dominant team going in and seal the deal from the start. We want to be that team all season long.”
Leezer might get his wish.
With his entire starting unit returning, save for two key players in midfielders Garrett Shank and Bridger Carreau, the Trojans are expected to be one of the favorites battling for the Class AAAAAA championship.
Although Shank and Carreau are gone, Leezer is hoping to see Lassiter’s other playmakers soon settle into their roles and contribute to the team’s success.
“We have guys that like to shoot and fire the ball,” he said. “We spend 20 minutes a day on just shooting. We’re getting our stronger guys to shoot and our weaker guys to get better at shooting. We want eight different guys scoring goals during a game, not just three or four. Three or four makes it easier for defenses to try and slow down the offense.”
Part of the reason for spreading the scoring around is making Lassiter more diverse. It also helps that the Trojans have several players capable of putting the ball in the net.
“We have great depth and not a lot of holes,” Leezer said. “Anybody can play. We definitely have some great leaders, and they’re great workers. Our (midfielders’) speed is also a strength because it allows us to control the game when we need to.”
Lassiter will need all of the strengths and assets at its disposal this season, where its one-goal loss in last year’s state final is being used to fuel the team.
“Most of these guys were in that position last year,” Leezer said, “so there won’t be any nerves as much this time. Our confidence level is higher, and the guys are poised and ready to go for this season to finish things out.
“Our team has traditionally been talented, but our composure and leadership has been an issue. We want to practice with our heart and play with our heads. We want to use the loss and be more focused and disciplined to our goals.”
The road to another final will require several tests as fellow title contenders Roswell, Milton, Walton and Etowah are all in the same area — 2AAAAAA — as Lassiter. Plus, last year’s Class AAAA champion, Lambert, has moved up and will make winning a state crown that much harder.
“We have five legitimate contenders in our (area) alone, but only four of us can make it,” Leezer said. “I like the idea of being challenged. There are lots of good teams and good coaches out there to help make us better.”