Mark Sherrod made Chattanooga Football Club coach Brian Crossman look like a genius Saturday night at Finley Stadium.
Less than 20 seconds after being sent in as a substitute, in his first game action since joining Chattanooga FC, the forward scored the game's only goal in CFC's 1-0 win over the Knoxville Force.
"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," a laughing Crossman said afterward. "We were happy to see one go in."
Not only did Sherrod score the winning goal in front of an announced crowd of 2,056, but he did it against his hometown team. The Knoxville native was a four-time all-state player at Carter High School.
Sherrod scored four goals as a redshirt freshman at the University of Memphis last fall. He said he considered playing for the first-year Force (1-1-1) this summer, but his coach at Memphis advised him that CFC (2-0-1) might be a better option.
"I'm really glad it turned out that way," he said.
The game was a rather disjoined, lackluster affair for most of the first half. Chattanooga FC had several good scoring chances early in the first half, a couple with Force goalkeeper Nathan Thackeray out of position, but couldn't find the back of the net.
Playing with one forward, Chris Ochieng, it was difficult for CFC to attack. Ochieng often had four defenders within 15 yards of him.
Chattanooga switched to a two-forward formation when Sherrod entered the game, and it paid immediate dividends. On the edge of the penalty box in front of the Force goal, Mark Beattie flicked a pass to Sherrod, who easily sent it past a lunging Thackeray.
"As soon as I got on the field I wasn't really expecting anything, and then Beattie played an amazing ball to me," Sherrod said. "And it just so happened to be right in front of the goal. That was my first touch ever playing for Chattanooga."
CFC will play in and host a qualifying regional for the U.S. Open Cup next week. Six of the seven NPSL Southeast Division teams will be participating.
On Friday, Knoxville and Jacksonville United meet, followed by Rocket City United versus FC Tulsa. In the first game Saturday, the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves will face the winner of Friday's first game and CFC will play either Rocket City or FC Tulsa.
Saturday's winners will play next Sunday for a spot in the main Cup draw.