Never tell Paideia the odds. They don’t seem to care much.
The Pythons lost eight seniors off last year’s state championship team, suffered seven defeats this season and were down two goals with 17 minutes left Saturday.
But none of that mattered, as Phillip Galonsky’s goal in the sixth minute of overtime lifted the Pythons to a 4-2 win over Atlanta International School to claim the Class A boys soccer state title.
It was a fitting way for the season to end for a team that seemed behind the eight ball all season, and kept finding a way back to the top.
“It’s just a bunch of kids who grew up quick during the season,” Paideia coach Eric Thomas said. “We started off slow; we had to learn some hard lessons, and they learned how to compete. The whole (game) was a metaphor for the season.”
Paideia charged back from a 2-0 deficit with two goals in a 4-minute span, the first on a high centering pass that Lagos Kunga leg-whipped into the net, and then Kunga assisted with a header to Thompson Race for the equalizer with 12:55 left.
The first goal from Kunga was important for more than just finally getting the Pythons on the board and making it a one-goal game. It was also the way he put it in, with an almost chest-high side kick off a long centering pass from Sam Tatum, that gave Paideia a much-needed emotional boost going into the home stretch of regulation.
“It was one of the most beautiful goals I’ve ever seen,” Galonsky said. “Just how pretty it was, I think that got everybody hyped.”
It showed, in the team’s energy going forward. That paid off with Race’s goal less than 3 minutes later, but both teams bogged down going into overtime.
Early in the second overtime period, though, Galonsky charged after a ball bouncing toward the net, and he suddenly found himself set up perfectly.
“I just went as hard as I could at the ball,” said Galonsky, a senior who had a hip injury that nearly kept him from playing. “I was hurting. I didn’t even know the goalie was coming at me. Then I saw he had already gone past me, and I put it in the goal.”
Kunga added an insurance goal to cap off the scoring with 3:03 left, to basically end any hope the Eagles had of coming back.
Atlanta International School’s Nick Rath scored both of his team’s goals in the second half, the last coming in the 58th minute on a header. After Paideia tied it, Rath nearly ended the game in regulation. The junior made a play for a hat trick from 60 feet out but clanged it off the crossbar with less than 40 seconds left.