It was a year ago that Armuchee's boys' soccer team was on the verge of a breakthrough that would thrust them into the Class AA Elite Eight.
The Indians now sit poised to possibly make another deep run in the playoffs, but with some of their toughest region opponents still on the schedule they know the road might not be an easy one.
Following Armuchee's shutout win over Chattooga on Friday, the Indians find themselves at the top of the Region 7-AA standings, and team captain Hunter Mathis sees themselves in a good spot as the season winds down.
“We’re hoping for first or second in the region so we can get a home game in the first round of state,” Mathis added. “Right now we’re at the top, so we’re hoping we’ll keep it going.”
Head coach David McLaughlin believes his team has developed the foundation to do that as he said he's seen even more determination in his current lineup as the season has progressed.
“The boys became a bit more focused faster,” McLaughlin said. “That’s paid off with winning some games. We took two losses, but we knew it would pay off in the region schedule.”
Armuchee's early season included non-region tests against Cedartown and Georgia-Cumberland Academy, which the Indians lost.
They then began their region schedule and have won eight of their last nine matches, including a pair of wins over Floyd County rival Model, both of when came down to penalty kicks.
Armuchee's focus and determination was on display again Friday when the Indians earned a 7-0 win over region foe Chattooga on Senior Night.
Simon Wilson had a hat trick, opening the match with two goals in the opening five minutes, while Mathis added a goal in the 34th minute.
Kody Manikas scored twice in the second half, and Bryson Cowart converted a penalty kick in the final 10 minutes to set the final score.
“I feel like we’ve got a playoff spot secured,” Armuchee keeper Alex Lyle said. “We’ve lost players, but I feel like we’ve filled in and adapted. We’ve improved significantly, so we’re happy with that.”
Lyle has also been a prominent force for the Indians throughout his four seasons on the team, earning four clean sheets this year so far and making the game-winning PK against Model last week.
Armuchee (9-3-1, 8-1 7-AA) will face Pepperell for a second time this season in the coming week after falling to the Dragons 2-1 earlier this month.
The Indians will then meet Coosa twice in the span of three days. The Eagles sit in second place in the region at 7-1 with their only region loss also coming at the hands of Pepperell after starting out 9-0 and not giving up a goal during that stretch.
Last season, the Indians swept the Eagles in the regular season winning both contests 2-1.
The Indians face Gordon Central on the road Monday, and McLaughlin said a win against the Warriors would put the Indians in a good place as the season winds down.
“We’ve beaten Gordon Central once and if we beat them twice we really believe we have a great shot at getting top three,” McLaughlin said. “Then if we can get by Pepperell we have a great shot at top two. Then the final week of the season if we can win those games, it’s us and Coosa for the region title. That’s a great rivalry from last year.”