After Lambert’s Eoin Griffiths scored his first goal this past season, the senior midfielder slowed to a trot and turned toward his teammates with arms lifted at his side and palms up, as if basking in the moment before receiving congratulations. It was an impulsive but inspired reaction patterned after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the decorated Swedish striker who played for Manchester United this past season, and it quickly became Griffiths’ signature.
No one minded the first few times. But by Griffiths’ fifth or sixth goal, teammates started to jokingly mimic his reaction when they scored in practice. As his goal total reached double-digits, some said he should come up with something new.
“I was like, ‘No, I can’t change it,’” Griffiths said. “’It’s too far. Gotta keep doing it.’”
Indeed, the reaction worked well for Griffiths and the Longhorns.
The University of Alabama-Huntsville signee finished with 26 goals to go along with 10 assists to lead Lambert to a share of the Region 5-7A championship and advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state playoffs, a clear choice for the 2017 Forsyth County News Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Griffiths said he had high expectations for himself and the Longhorns, but they were also tempered.
Lambert was coming off its third straight season ending with a loss in the first round of the state playoffs. The Longhorns had a strong senior class, but they were also counting on a contingent of sophomores. Griffiths had scored a solid, but not spectacular 10 goals the preview season. His goal entering the season was 14.
In the end, Griffiths realized his expectations weren’t high enough.
Griffiths and his fellow seniors guided the sophomores through a few early growing pains and became a formidable unit. They went 10-0-1 through the middle of the season that included six shutouts, then edged Central Gwinnett (2-1) and Hillgrove (3-2) in the state playoffs.
“At the beginning if they had told us we were going to the third round and we could have possibly won the third round (game), I would have been like, ‘Eh, maybe, I don't know,’” Griffiths said. “But at the end of the season, we were a little disappointed, because we felt like we could've gone a little further.”
They almost did, thanks to Griffiths. He scored the Longhorns’ lone goal in their 2-1 loss at home to Walton in the state quarterfinals, then nearly had the equalizer just a few minutes later. Griffiths had four of the team’s six goals in the state playoffs and 26 of their 63 (41.2 percent) on the season.
“I had a lot of good players behind me to help me get the goals,” Griffiths said.
And after each one, Griffiths reacted the same.