0608LillieAUDListen to Jonathan Lillie talk about his team's improbable season
Jonathan Lillie was the catalyst behind significant strides in the East Hall boys soccer program.
He led the Vikings (12-6, 6-4 Region 7-AAA) to the first boys playoff berth in school history this season, finished ranked No. 14 overall, according to the eurosportsscoreboard, and picked up a win against then No. 10-ranked Lumpkin County during the regular season.
In just two years as the Vikings coach, he turned a program that didn’t even have a complete set of matching jerseys when he took over in 2007, into a program that was tied late in the game against fourth-ranked Druid Hills before losing 2-1 in the opening round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
For his efforts, Lillie is the Times 2008 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.
"Part of me said, ‘Wow,’ when we had such a successful season but the other part of me said we had the talent so it made sense," Lillie said. "I was just so pleased with how we competed well all season."
Lillie remembers the anticipation the last week of the regular season. The Vikings didn’t control their playoff destiny.
East Hall’s formula to get into the playoffs was simple: they needed a West Hall win against Lumpkin County, which they received. As a result, the Vikings locked up the No. 3 playoff spot out of Region 7-AAA.
Lillie, who will take over as the cross country and junior varsity boys soccer coach at North Hall next season, remembers the excitement around the Vikings team as they headed to Atlanta for the program’s first playoff game in school history.
They sang on the bus driving down for the game.
The Vikings even sang on the way back after losing in the final 10 minutes of the game to the Red Devils.
"They were singing Ole! Ole! East Hall," Lillie said.
"The kids were just blown away and you could just feel the energy."
The Vikings former coach didn’t see results immediately when he took over the program. In 2007, East Hall won only two games but it doubled the win from the previous two seasons.
He said the biggest obstacle to building a winning program in the beginning was changing the players attitudes.
"Last year was definitely a struggle," Lillie said. "They saw the past and how the program had failed to succeed."
He said the first significant sign of progress was the program’s first win in school history against Johnson this year.
The Vikings were also the only team to score three goals in a game against state semifinalist Flowery Branch.
"There’s still some big work to do with the program," Lillie said. "But East Hall soccer has made a big step in the right direction."