Playing in just their third state playoff game, and hosting their first, the Eagles notched their first playoff win Tuesday with a 9-5 victory over Roswell in the first round of the Class AAAAA tournament at Eagle Stadium.
The No. 2 seed of Area 2AAAAA, Etowah (16-1) will travel to Area 1AAAAA champion Harrison for Friday’s quarterfinal, and the Eagles wouldn’t mind getting another shot at last year’s state runner-up. Harrison eliminated Etowah in the first round of last year’s state tournament, by a comfortable 13-2 decision.
The Eagles appear to be playing their best lacrosse right now. They haven’t lost since falling by a goal to area rival Lassiter on March 10, winning 12 consecutive games since.
Etowah’s game Tuesday wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Once the Eagles got their transition game going in the latter half of the first quarter, the Hornets struggled to keep up. Etowah built a 6-0 halftime lead, and three of Roswell’s five goals came in the final 3 minutes of the game, when the Eagles made substitutions.
“A lot of people didn’t give us the credit we deserved going into this round, thinking some of the lower seeds were going to take out the higher seeds,” Etowah coach Michael Tuley said. “That was the fuel for us. We came out against Roswell doing what we wanted to do.”
Connor Smith was the only player with multiple goals for Etowah, finishing with four. Andrew King, Blake Charitot, Matt Glazier, Eli Goodman and Chris Orr each had one.
The first 6 minutes of the game was a defensive battle on both sides before Etowah’s defense began setting up fast-break opportunities. The Eagles’ first two goals came a minute apart, and Smith was the one who got it started at 5:52 when he charged the goal and bounced it in. Charitot scored 50 seconds later from the left side of the crease on an assist by Glazier.
Once the Eagles took a two-goal lead, they started controlling the game offensively until the opening quarter expired on Goodman’s goal from a Charitot feed.
“We knew that Roswell was weak against transition,” King said, “so we ran the ball, placed it and executed it.”
Roswell took away Etowah’s possessions in the second quarter, but the Eagles denied the Hornets from scoring. The Eagles did take advantage of opportunities, tacking on three more goals in the second quarter.
Every time Roswell scored in the second half, Etowah would answer back to maintain its six-goal lead. A crucial turning point came in the waning seconds of the third, when Etowah took advantage of Roswell being two men down.
Etowah got the separation it needed 5 minutes into the fourth when Smith scored an unassisted goal.