Season goals still attainable for Stone Mountain after loss to Decatur

Stone Mountain High School suffered a 63-0 loss to Decatur High School in football Sept. 24, but Head Coach James Lal said Stone Mountain can still accomplish what it set out to do this season and can continue a rebuild what Lal has been part of for several seasons.

“As I’ve told everybody, our goal wasn’t to be undefeated, our goal was to make the playoffs and have a winning season,” said Lal. “We’re still all in on those and capable of [achieving] those goals. We’re going to take our licks and lumps and be ready to play next week.”

Before the loss to Decatur, Stone Mountain boasted a 4-0 record and had outscored its opponents by a combined 118-49. The 4-0 start marked the Pirates’ first time starting a season with consecutive wins since 2011 and showed the progress Lal and his team made changing the culture at Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain still has five games remaining on its 2021 schedule, but the four games already won gives Stone Mountain the most wins it has totaled since the 2013 season.

“We worked hard to get to 4-0. Our guys have been changing the culture. We’re young, we only have eight seniors on the team,” said Lal. “This is the toughest competition we’ve faced so far, obviously by the score, and we’re not happy about it, but you learn more when you lose than when you win. We’ll take what we learned tonight and apply it to the rest of the region.”

The competition Stone Mountain faced Sept. 24 was stout. Like Stone Mountain, Decatur started the season 4-0 and blew out most of its opponents.

As Lal said, his team is also young and could return a lot of talent to next year’s team and others. Lal said it is important to return experience but that he also wants to use the roster continuity—and players who are accustomed to Stone Mountain’s new culture—to have a better offseason.

Stone Mountain will return several players to next year’s team, helping the Pirates continue the program’s rebuild.

Players such as junior Devonte Cemexan—sixth among DeKalb County School District (DCSD) players in rushing yards and top 10 in passing yards—help lead a top-five DCSD offense and could return for another year. Junior Ali Diakite is seventh in tackle assists and sacks this DCSD season and has remaining eligibility.

According to Lal, the next step for Stone Mountain’s program is to have a better offseason and spend more time in the weight room.
“Our biggest thing is commitment during the offseason,” added Lal. “That’s one thing that we’re seeing when we keep playing tougher competition. Our commitment in the weight room during the offseason is one of the things we’ve talked about needing to improve as a program to take that next step.”

Even though Stone Mountain’s 4-0 start came to an end, the Pirates are 4-1 and all five of the Pirates’ remaining opponents are region foes, giving Lal’s team a window to make the playoffs.

Stone Mountain’s next game is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. against Martin Luther King Jr. High School at Avondale Stadium.

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