Brooks Duff and Will Dunaway each stood with an arm on the goal post, focused on a single ball nearly 25 yards away.
Brooks Duff (left) of Greenbrier High School and Will Dunaway of Lakeside High practice together July 7. They will soon travel to England with their soccer club to compete against British Academy teams.
Photo by David Degner
When the whistle sounded, the teens sprinted toward the ball, each hoping to outrace the other.
Duff got there first and controlled the ball as Dunaway tripped and fell.
Dribbling the ball a few steps, Duff ripped a shot that met the top right corner of the net for a goal.
As Dunaway pulled himself off the ground, he couldn't help but crack a smile.
Duff followed suit, but added a huge laugh as the two walked back to the net to begin the drill again.
Duff, a Greenbrier sophomore, and Dunaway, a sophomore at Lakeside, have spent the past few weeks preparing for a trip with their club soccer team to the United Kingdom.
The twosome will head to British Isles on July 29 for an 11-day trek that will pit their team, the Cobb Futbol Club, against many of the British academy teams that serve as feeder systems for the best soccer teams in Britain.
"We are very excited to head over there," said Dunaway about his first trip overseas. "We might get our butts kicked, but we will still have fun."
Duff contended, "I think we'll be OK."
The competitive nature of the duo's relationship comes from the evolution of a friendship formed on the pitch.
The two met and became friends eight years ago as teammates on the Augusta Arsenal Soccer Club's under-10 Gunners team.
They played together with the Gunners until a little over a year ago, when Dunaway decided going to Atlanta to play soccer was the best idea.
"Playing soccer in Atlanta is a necessity if you want to get noticed by colleges," he said. "The competition level is night and day from Columbia County and Augusta in Atlanta. Everything is faster and all the players are good."
Duff followed his friend to Cobb County a few months later and the two picked up where they left off as teammates.
"We know that by playing in Atlanta, we have a great shot at getting a (Division I-A) scholarship," Duff added.
Will Dunaway (left) from Lakeside and Brooks Duff from Greenbrier have been playing soccer together since they were 7 and 8.
Photo by David Degner
Both will also generate an enormous amount of exposure by being on the Olympic Development Program teams for their respective birth years.
Dunaway's Region 3 89 - referring to year of his birth - team won the region championship and will compete for the national title in 2005. Duff plays for the Region 3 88 team.
Getting exposure, however, comes at a price.
The Cobb F.C. competes in tournaments nearly every weekend in the fall, requiring the teens to drive back to Atlanta often.
"It becomes sort of a grind," said Pam Dunaway, Will's mother. "They usually sleep, but it is tough to make the trips all the time."
There are other consequences as well.
Dunaway asked Lakeside coach Dave Morgan to be excused from a season game this spring to play in a prestigious tournament in Virginia. Morgan and the Lakeside captains permitted Dunaway to leave and the sophomore was injured in the tournament, forcing him to miss portions of the Panthers' season.
In fact, Dunaway was injured when the Panthers played the Wolfpack during the season.
"It stunk because I was really looking forward to playing against him," said Duff. "It's all right, though. We are going to beat them next year and have a team that can win a state title."
Dunaway laughed and said, "You wish."
Duff will play a key role on the Wolfpack team that brings back nearly every key player from last season.
Lakeside will need Dunaway, a honorable mention selection to The Augusta Chronicle's 2004 All Area soccer team despite missing time with the injury, to take a leadership role on a team that made it to the state quarterfinals but lost seven key seniors.
"We will be counting on Will heavily," said Lakeside soccer coach Dave Morgan. "We expect him to be able to step up and take a leadership role."
Graeme Connolly, a coach with the Gunners who has helped the two train for the British trip, said he expects big things out of both the teens.
"They are great kids," he said in a thick Scottish accent. "I believe they can be as good as any kids from this area in recent memory."
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