Boys Soccer Blog: Harrison’s Gross: ‘High school soccer here is as good as anywhere in the country’

Credit: GHSA

Credit: GHSA

The ending of the high school boys soccer season became yet another display of the quality and competitiveness of the sport in the state of Georgia.

“High school soccer here is as good as anywhere in the country,” said Harrison head coach Matt Gross, whose team finished 23-0 and defeated Pebblebrook 2-1 to win its first title since 2007.

“If you look at our playoff run, we won 3-2 (Lambert) in the Elite Eight and then had to come from behind in the semifinals in the 3-2 victory over Campbell. We knew these games were going to be battles. It was just fantastic.”

The eight state championship matches featured a little bit of everything. There were tales of redemption, and there were title defenses. There were narrow victories, teams breaking through for the first time and cross-town rivals battling out for another title and local bragging rights.

“The boys this year, they were willing to do everything and anything for each other,” said Gross, who was an assistant at Harrison before taking over the head coaching job in 2007. “They fought so hard, so to see them get rewarded is probably the best part.”

A.J. Daniels and Reeves Buecker scored for Harrison in the Class 7A title match.

“A.J. is just a dream player,” Gross said. “He started as a freshman and has just been incredible all year. It’s great because he does so many subtle things that the fans or players might not even notice. To see him hit that game-winner was incredible. And that first goal in a state championship game is so important. Reeves was so composed and just buried it.”

The diversity of the state – a micro-melting pot, if you will – contributes to the success of the sport.

“Well, especially Atlanta, it’s a really diverse city,” Gross said. “In the suburbs and further out, too. We have people from all over the country and all over the world. I graduated high school in 1999 and believe me, soccer didn’t look anything like it does now. I think, in general, the game has gotten a foothold in the country, finally. What we are seeing is that kids are getting much better much earlier. There are so many great clubs in the area and the state, and we are attracting kids to the sport who are athletes.”

And what does that mean?

“It’s amazing what the game has become,” Gross said. “Even tonight in our championship match, the atmosphere was phenomenal. Right? The place was packed, the stands were loud, and the soccer was good. It was just amazing to be a part of it.”

And that sentiment was expressed at each of the 16 boys and girls championship matches. It might be too early to say, “move over, (enter sport here).” But the beautiful game is growing, growing, grown.

Here’s how the other title matches played out:

  • Lassiter took the Class 6A championship after beating two-time defending champion Dalton, 3-1. Max Albertson scored one goal, and Colin Nedblake scored two to lead the Trojans. The victory marked Lassiter’s second title and first since 1996.
  • Johnson-Gainesville won the Class 5A title with a 4-2 victory against St. Pius X to capture the program’s second title. Johnson won the 5A championship in 2018.
  • In Class 4A, two programs 22 minutes apart in the far northwest corner of the state – Southeast and Northwest Whitfield -- traveled to Macon to compete for local bragging rights. Southeast Whitfield defended its 2021 title to capture the program’s third championship since 2017 after beating Northwest 2-1.
  • Greater Atlanta Christian’s 3-1 victory against Oconee County in the 3A championship match gave the Spartans their sixth state championship, but first since 2015. GAC tied for a title with Athens Academy in 2000 before winning titles in 2007, 2009, 2014, 2015 and this season.
  • In another meeting between programs just a skulled 9-iron apart in Atlanta, Pace Academy outlasted local rival Lovett 1-0 in the Class 2A title match to win the program’s third championship while successfully defending last season’s title. It traveled to Macon to do it. The Knights won the Class AA/A championship in 2006.
  • Dalton Academy won its first title after beating Drew Charter 4-2 in the Class A Public championship.
  • In the Class A Private title match, Atlanta International won its second championship after beating Athens Academy 5-2. It won the Class A title in 2015.

Class 7A

1. Harrison

2. Pebblebrook

3. Campbell

4. Hillgrove

5. Lambert

6. Roswell

7. Peachtree Ridge

8. Brookwood

9. Forsyth Central

10. Parkview

Class 6A

1. Lassiter

2. Dalton

3. River Ridge

4. Central Gwinnett

5. Lakeside-DeKalb

6. Grovetown

7. Glynn Academy

8. Riverwood

9. Osborne

10. Lee County

Class 5A

1. Johnson-Gainesville

2. Woodward

3. St. Pius X

4. McIntosh

5. Blessed Trinity

6. Clarke Central

7. Starr’s Mill

8. Veterans

9. Northgate

10. Union Grove

Class 4A

1. Southeast Whitfield

2. Northwest Whitfield

3. Columbus

4. East Hall

5. North Oconee

6. Jefferson

7. West Laurens

8. LaGrange

9. Benedictine

10. Cedartown

Class 3A

1. Greater Atlanta Christian

2. Oconee County

3. Westminster

4. West Hall

5. Pike County

6. East Forsyth

7. North Murray

8. Tattnall County

9. East Jackson

10. Coahulla Creek

Class 2A

1. Pace Academy

2. Lovett

3. Gordon Central

4. Coosa

5. Bremen

6. Thomasville

7. Union County

8. Toombs County

9. Fitzgerald

10. Woodville-Tompkins

Class A Private

1. Atlanta International

2. Athens Academy

3. St. Anne Pacelli

4. Pinecrest Academy

5. Paideia

6. Providence Christian

7. Walker

8. Landmark Christian

9. Savannah Country Day

10. First Presbyterian Day

Class A Public

1. Dalton Academy

2. Drew Charter

3. Lake Oconee Academy

4. ACE Charter

5. Georgia Military

6. Trion

7. Portal

8. Atkinson County

9. Dooly County

10. Claxton