Phoenix Wins Georgia State Championship

April 24, 2015

Updated Monday April 27, 2015 by Niall Fenton.

Phoenix Wins Georgia State Championship

Phoenix beat their arch rivals Lassiter Trojans 27 to 9 at Roswell Rec on Friday night to repeat as Georgia High School State Champions. This great win gives Phoenix three State HS Championships in a row but what looked like a clear Phoenix win with 15 minutes to go turned into a rousing affair with Phoenix briefly going behind before reasserting themselves for the deserved win.

Phoenix were without the suspended Malik Williams but welcomed back Tanner Simpson who had recovered from a serious hand injury. The opening kick went out on the full and Lassiter launched their first attack from the half way line. Coping well in defense Lechandt Opperman cleared his line and Phoenix marched down field. Following several phases and some ragged play, scrum half Austin Willis chased down a blocked Lassiter clearance to score in the corner. It was a great start but Lassiter responded and leveled the score with smart handling from their powerful backs who outflanked the Phoenix defense. Phoenix were getting the better of the forward exchanges and standoff Lechandt Opperman, subsequently named Man of the Match, was in sparkling kicking form from hand and tee. He punished infractions by slotting two penalties after Phoenix pressure to leave the half time score at 11 to 5 in favor of the championship holders and was making all the right decisions. The first half Phoenix success was largely down to this and effective counter rucking from the forwards, particularly Bennett Erickson and Joe Lynch and a dominant line out performance from Braden Crabtree and Parker Nelson. Also, let's not forget the Austin Willis opportunistic try!

Opperman was on target twice more in the second half as Phoenix moved ahead 17 to 5 and looked safe. However, a yellow card for Phoenix prop Ben Fagg plus the retirement through injury of the other Phoenix prop, Cristian Calvallo, soon changed the course of the game. Lassiter Junior Shea O’Hanlon stormed over the Phoenix line for two tremendous tries, both of which he converted, to suddenly leave Lassiter with a slender two point lead with only 10 minutes to play. Weak tackling from a tired Phoenix and very strong running from the Lassiter #10, Shea O'Hanlon, were the main contributors. Notwithstanding, the Phoenix spirit rose from the ashes and, not to be denied, 14 man Phoenix drove down the field. Phoenix forced a penalty at the ruck and Opperman again slotted over a vital penalty to restore the lead. Following a final despairing but valiant effort from Lassiter and a relieving kick and chase, Phoenix then put the game away with a flying breakaway try from speedy scrumhalf Austin Willis. Not surprisingly, Lechandt Opperman duly kicked the long conversion from the touchline to leave the final score at: Alpharetta Phoenix 27 : Lassiter Trojans 19.

This was a terrific team performance with replacements Nick Koumandarakis, Daniel Everett and Greg Pelland also doing their part for the team. Captain Nico Bein can be very proud of the efforts of his whole team in beating a very strong and talented Lassiter Trojans squad who never gave up. The Phoenix family should be very proud of this Championship team.

Niall Fenton