Originally created 11/07/97

Falling short of title a little disappointing



To battle all season long, finally reach the desired destination, and then fall one step short of a dream season would understandably be cause for disappointment.

The Augusta Prep soccer team refused to label themselves failures, however.

After suffering a 3-0 loss to Stratford Academy in the GISA championship game Nov. 4 the Cavaliers already were thinking of all they accomplished in 1997.

"Beating Stratford earlier in the year was the real turning point in our season," senior striker Wes Dunaway said. "Beating Westminster was really nice. We had a few tough losses to Frederica that we avenged, so that was nice."

Prep was ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll and lived up to its billing. The Cavaliers' only two regular-season losses came at the hands of Frederica. Prep spoiled the Knights' shot for the state title by defeating them 2-1 in the semifinals Oct. 30.

Coach Derek Harrington's team also disposed of the dreaded Westminster jinx. The Cavaliers dropped Westminster 4-3 on Oct. 14, the first time a Prep team had beaten the Wildcats.

Harrington said he understands those are the types of wins needed to build a winning tradition at Prep.

"That's what these seniors started and they deserve the credit for," Harrington said. "You look at all these young players here watching, they are the future and they'll want to get back there again. That's what it's all about, a new tradition."

Dunaway said Harrington has brought Prep respect.

"When Mr. Harrington came we started from scratch," Dunaway said. "We revamped everything and we've built the program up ever since. Mr. Harrington has been a real influence on me in soccer and in life.

"The work ethic and the example he sets is awesome. This year has been a dream and this (championship) game doesn't take away from that."

Senior goalie Allen Hobbs said the Cavaliers' soccer program has grown by leaps and bounds during his four years as net minder.

"We did so many things this year that no team has ever done at Prep," Hobbs said. "They are going to be good things to be remembered by. It's sad we won't be remembered for a state championship, but we were the No. 2 team in the whole state of Georgia."

This year's squad consisted of 10 seniors, of which nine were starters. They defeated Stratford 2-1 on Oct. 4 when the Eagles were ranked No. 20 in the nation. Harrington doesn't expect a dropoff next year as Prep tries to reach the pinnacle of GISA soccer.

"I'm happy that everybody recognizes that we lose nine (starting) seniors because we have a lot of young talent coming in," Harrington said. "They are very short and very small but are very quick and very skillful. What we love is the fact that these guys (who) are graduating will come back to push the young ones to take the title.

"The ninth grade coming in is one of our strongest groups skill-wise that I've had. Now they have to live up to that expectation."

Harrington said the Cavaliers overcame most of the hurdles thrown at them this year.

"You beat Stratford, then you overcome the jinx against Westminster and then Frederica beats us twice during the season and you overcome that in the semis," he said. "Now it was like `can we pull out one more?"'

Harrington said his team didn't need much prodding to prepare for each match.

"The ownership and responsibility for the game by the players (was the key this year)," Harrington said. "I could just construct the practice and they were able to take control of it themselves. That's the major factor."

Hobbs will miss his soft-spoken coach, but leaves Augusta Prep knowing he and his senior teammates left everything they had on the field.

"It's really sad not to be able to play for him again (Harrington)," Hobbs said. "He's always been there for us. We stood together, we stood proud and we still do."