A seesaw year that had East Coweta's boys soccer team battling adversity came to a halt at the feet of No. 3 state-ranked Lambert during Friday's GHSA Class 7A state quarterfinal match in Gwinnett County.
While a 3-0 loss brought a disappointing end following consecutive playoff upsets after entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed out of Region 2-7A, the Indians had been on the brink of playoff elimination as early as March 13 with veterans in and out of the lineup due to a series of injuries.
But after three consecutive losses in early to mid March, East Coweta rattled off a 9-2-1 record over its last dozen matches to not only make the postseason cut in 2-7A, but while advancing two rounds to reach the Elite 8 for the first time since 2013.
Teams went to halftime scoreless on Friday in Forsyth County before Lambert finally broke through in the 45th minute. The deficit stayed at 1-0 until the final six minutes when the Longhorns added an insurance goal before tacking on a penalty kick.
Trey Hines had two of Lambert's three goals and Hayden Fontana added the other while advancing to face either Region 2 champion Campbell or South Gwinnett, this year's Region 8 runner-up.
Losses to Campbell and Wheeler in region play left East Coweta needing to win its final three games against 2-7A opponents just to make the playoffs. The run back into contention began with a 6-2 rout of Mountain View, but didn't truly pick up steam until knocking off Pebblebrook 2-1 on the road.
After adding a nonregion win over Starr's Mill, the Indians completed the comeback with shutout victories over Newnan (2-0) and Westlake (3-0) led by senior keeper Sam Briggs, who signed with Methodist University.
Briggs, however, was among nine seniors on the 2018 roster while coming up big twice in penalty kick rounds late in the year. The latest was a four-save effort in a second-round win at Etowah after teams completed 90 minutes tied at 1-1.
East Coweta spent the majority of the season without striker Andrew Wilson up top. Co-captains Wyatt Palmer and Baylor Asher, who still managed to score 12 goals over 12 games while moving on to play at Clayton State.
Of those, seniors Ismael Aguirre and Ty Harrison each had five. Palmer and Walker, both lockdown defenders, finished with three along with fellow senior Ezra Rubenstein, who was relegated to the sidelines in the second round victory over Etowah.
Two more seniors, Jeff Redmond and Chase Manning, scored at least two, along with one from senior Andrew Shumake.