The Atlanta International and Stratford game in the GHSA Class A boys soccer championship Saturday might have ended up at 3-0 against Stratford, but Stratford was within inches of tying the game late in the first half and early in the second half.
After Tomas Perez scored off a header on a free kick in the 26th minute, Stratford seemed to wake up, and just two minutes later, Stratford had a golden opportunity to score. Thomas Traynham delivered a perfect free kick into the box, and Zane Holliman headed the ball toward the goal. But the ball hit the post and bounced harmlessly away.
“When I hit it, I thought it was going in, but I guess the wind must have caught it,” said Holliman, who had three goals in Stratford’s semifinal win over Fellowship Christian. “I think a goal would have been huge and gave us the momentum back, and it seems like when we get the first one, we usually get a couple more.
“I know that the score ended up 3-0, but they got one off a free kick and another off a penalty kick, so it really felt a lot more like a 1-0 game.”
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Stratford again had a serious chance to tie things up late in the half when leading scorer Jonathan Dean received a pass from Custis Donner inside of the box. Dean turned and fired a shot that got past the keeper, but another defender was able to stop the ball before it got to the goal line.
“When I kicked it, I thought something good would happen for us,” said Dean, who has signed to play at Wofford. “I guarantee that if we could have taken advantage of one of those opportunities, it would have been a different game.
“You have to give them credit, and they were a good defensive team, but probably not the best we have played this year. We just needed to do a little better job of putting the ball in the net.”
Stratford grabbed the momentum early in the second half, getting four decent looks at goal in the first five minutes, with Lukas Joyner getting one of those.
“I feel like we had them on the ropes a little bit at that time, and I cranked one at the keeper, but he just made a good play on the ball,” said Joyner, who will play at Georgia State. “We had opportunities but couldn’t find the net, and I guess that’s just soccer.”
Joyner and Dean both play club soccer in Atlanta and won’t take a long break.
“I think at this point I am just ready to get back on the field and play again,” Dean said. “I will play all summer, and hopefully my club team can win some tournaments.
Joyner was part of the team that lost in the GISA championship game to Westminster a year ago.
“I know I will think about this game for a while, but I am happy with my high school career,” Joyner said. “I got to play in four state championship games and win a few, and right now, it’s just time to start another chapter in my life.”