DHS-Pope Lacrosse Game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

The two teams will battle for a spot in the state championship game.

The lacrosse teams are an athletic success story at , but the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday home game against Pope High represents a new peak of accomplishment.

For the first time, Decatur has reached the semi-finals of the state tournament.

Said , "This is uncharted territory for the Bulldogs."

The game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium. Admission is $7 per person.

The school has fielded boys and girls teams since 2005 and the boys' team has played in the state tournament yearly since 2007, Riggers said.

. Some of the top players for Decatur are defenders Davis Byrd, Sam Weitnauer and Branford Frison and offensive players Nick Bentley, Deangelo Watkins and Nathan Wilinski. Ben Rigger, the starting goalie, was named to the A-AAAA Georgia All-State third Team (Honorable Mention).

Decatur (14-5) lost a scrimmage 8-5 in February to Pope (14-3-1). Many of the Bulldogs' wins have been by one goal.

"This team has been through the fire," Rigger said.

The players and coaches are trying to not look ahead, but if Decatur wins, the state championship game would be played Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.

Decatur advance to the semis by with a 6-5 overtime victory over Chattahoochee last Saturday. Jim Scully of the Decatur Bulldog Boosters wrote this account of the game.

Here's how the Georgia Lax Blog described the matchup…

"This one will be interesting... neither team has really played that tough of a schedule... but Decatur would appear to be more battle tested. They lost OT games to 5A playoff teams Roswell and Northview recently, and took a defensive must-win against SPX. Hooch hasn't lost since early March when they were worked over by Northview. One of these two will be a newcomer in the Semis."

Indeed, a closer match could not have been divined. Although the Hooch record of 13-2 placed them above Decatur in computer rankings, the Bulldogs’ 5 losses were to top teams with a total difference of 6 goals. Decatur had the disadvantage of having three key players,  Wesley Berberick, Will Raines and Jack Scully, sidelined due to injuries. But we had one big advantage:  home sweet home field.

It became evident that this was to be a defensive scrap, as the Cougars scored the first goal of the game with only 1:54 remaining in the first quarter. Then early in the second quarter Sam Berg fed a pass to Jonah Florence for his first goal, which tied the match at 1. Two minutes later Deangelo Watkins scored with a slick assist from Bulldog assist king Nathan Wilinski to give Decatur the lead. The Cougars scored a goal of their own to end the half tied at 2.

In the third quarter, Nathan Wilinski put another notch in his assist belt by setting up Nick Bentley for a go-ahead goal, his 56th goal of the season. (Side note:  Bentley literally limped into the 2012 lacrosse season, still recovering from a severe leg injury sustained in a football game. But once the season got underway Nick showed his determination by not missing a single game and averaging over 3 goals per game).

Once again, Hooch came back to tie the score and then scored again to recapture the lead at 4-3.  But it was a Jonah Florence solo shot in the 4th that brought the Decatur crowd to a fever pitch that wouldn’t relent for the rest of the game.  With just three minutes left in the game the Decatur offense charged down the field with a series of expertly executed passes. 

Game “Jacket and hat”-winner, Kyle Kitchens got the play started by scooping up a ground ball and heading full speed down the field. Just over the mid-field stripe, Kyle dished the ball to a crossing Nathan Wilinski who then looked to take the ball right down the middle. Nathan saw Nick and passed him the ball where it ended up in Bentley’s stick just a few yards in front of the Cougar goalie. 

Everyone in the stadium, including the Hooch goalie, expected Nick to shoot.  But instead, he deftly flicked the ball to the awaiting Deangelo Watkins on the other side of the goal, leaving the goalie defenseless.  But Hooch refused to scooch, sending the game into overtime with a late 4th quarter goal.  End of regulation play:  Decatur 5 – Chattahoochee 5.

Kyle Kitchens, a back-up defenseman, was awarded the game jacket for stepping up his play on a day when his team needed him. Not only was Kyle’s overall play note worthy, but the coaches felt his starting the go-ahead fast break was a turning point in the game! Well done Kyle!

Throughout the season, a chink in the Bulldog armor has been our win-loss ratio in face-offs, winning 132 compared to our opponents’ 165. In a sudden-death overtime situation a lost face-off could easily result in sudden defeat.  But we had the Decatur fans on our side, plus the recently improved face-off performance of Lang Rogers, freshman LSM (long stick middie). 

Lang won the face off to the deafening screams of both fan sections.  But Chattahoochee fans would be the ones to fall silent when for the third time in the game Deangelo Watkins found the net, this time with an unassisted shot that almost ripped a hole in it.

 Kudos to the whole team, but especially goalie Ben Rigger, whose All-State play has kept us in every game in the playoffs and throughout the season.

 By damming the Hooch (reference to Lydia Simms’ awesome DAM THE HOOCH poster slogan), Decatur has made it to the final four in Georgia A – AAAA lacrosse for the first time in our history.  The semi-final match against Pope will be held Wednesday evening, May 16th, 7:30 PM at Decatur Stadium. Come out and be part of DHS history!


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