'Dogs fall to Fugees on senior night

Apr. 2—The defending state runner-up GMC Prep boys soccer team took just its second loss of the season Friday, dropping its 2023 playoff rematch against visiting Fugees Academy 2-1.

All the scoring took place in the opening half with Fugees (5-0) finding the net first about nine minutes in. The Bulldogs (12-2) answered five minutes later, but the Atlanta soccer school broke the tie before the halftime horn sounded and left town with a victory on GMC Prep's senior night.

"Tough game," Bulldog coach Bobby Jaworski said. "We buckled a little bit. It sucks that it happened on senior night, but I think we'll be better for this."

Founded in 2006, Fugees Academy is a charter school created specifically for refugees and immigrants from other countries. According to the school's website, it got its start when founder Luma Mufleh was playing a pick-up soccer game in Atlanta, where she met a group of young refugees adapting to American life. That encounter blossomed into a tutoring program, a summer camp, and eventually a school. The sport of soccer plays such a big role in the school's culture that a soccer ball is featured prominently in the school logo.

The Fugees gave the Bulldogs a competitive match in last year's playoffs, but that meeting resulted in a 2-0 GMC Prep win.

Different this year is the Bulldogs' experience along the defensive backline and at goalkeeper. Jaworski had to replace multiple spots within the unit, resulting in missteps against quality opponents this season.

"Their goals came from miscommunication," Jaworski said of Fugees' net-finders Friday.

The first came just over nine minutes into play when freshman keeper Hayden Wells let his defense know he was stepping up to play a ball. One of Bulldog defenders tried to play the ball anyway, and the keeper was suddenly out of position as a shot from the top of the box put the Fugees up 1-0.

The home team's answer came square at the 25-minute mark in the first half. Sophomore Tommy Carty got the ball around midfield and took it all the way down into the box himself before firing off a shot. That attempt was stopped, but Carty kept on going to put back the rebound and provide the equalizer.

Both teams had more chances as the half wore on. Wells made back-to-back stops of Fugee shots at just under 19 minutes, and GMC Prep's own forays deep into the west end of the field went unsuccessful. The Bulldogs' offense was unorganized due in large part to the absence of senior midfielder Owen McCabe, who was out with an injury sustained the week prior. He serves as the team's point guard with a squad-high 11 assists, and he's also scored seven goals in 12 games played.

"Owen was missed big time," said Jaworski. "Our attack was not cohesive tonight. Everything was under duress, trying to force things and one-on-one sprints down the field."

Meanwhile, the visitors from Atlanta were racking up the cards, three yellows within just a few minutes of one another as officials sought to keep play civil in the opening half.

The game's tie was broken at 10 minutes before halftime as Fugees moved the ball from left to right from deep, then from right to left via cross into the box. That send resulted in the go-ahead, and eventually game-winning, header that made the score 2-1.

Happy to hold on to the lead, Fugees for the rest of the game boomed the ball out of its own end every chance it got to force GMC Prep to try and reorganize. There were opportunities to even the score, but they were ultimately not cashed in.

Fugees added on to its card total with a red, which comes with an ejection, and another yellow before the game went final. GMC Prep finished with one yellow.

While the result was a loss, it did give the Bulldogs a look at an opponent they could see again in the playoffs. Depending on how things shake out in the regular season, a GMC-Fugees rematch might be in the cards in the state semifinal round.

Jaworski hopes his guys can use Friday's loss as fuel the rest of the way.

"They've got to," he said. "There's really no other choice. If we're going to make noise at state, this has to be that launching point."

Earlier in the night, the GMC Prep girls upped their record to 5-9-1 when they defeated Johnson County 4-1. Senior Megan Harper, her classmate Emily Kaninjing, sophomore Jackie Wilson, and freshman Bella Dixon had the goals for the home team. Senior Sara Johnson, junior Saiya Patel, and freshman Savannah Freeman pitched in with assists. The Lady Dogs are fourth in their area, meaning they have clinched a playoff berth.