East Hamilton soccer coach John Millard spent much of Wednesday's practice attempting to calm the emotions of his Hurricanes before Thursday's contest against East Ridge.
The Pioneers spent 80 minutes trying to weather the storm of emotions that the Hurricanes threw at them.
East Hamilton scored two first-half goals and won 2-1 Thursday at Camp Jordan in a physical contest that included injuries and nine yellow cards.
East Ridge keeper Jonathan Rodriguez went down with an injury in the first minutes of the match. He was taken to the emergency room after the game, diagnosed with a dislocated finger and had it popped back into place. Backup keeper Steve Dennis filled in admirably for Rodriguez, stopping four shots.
The Pioneers (7-1, 4-1) actually scored first, when Josh Francisco headed in a nice pass from Alfonso Lopez, but coach Jeremy McIntyre sensed an emotional dip when Rodriguez got hurt.
"You could just feel the sudden drop," he said.
The East Hamilton attack started to find gaps. Jackson McClure - who moments earlier had missed a shot from the same spot - took a lead pass from Jalen Goddard and tied the game 17 minutes in.
After a East Ridge foul in the box, McClure had another opportunity to score on a penalty kick but missed the shot wide left.
Another foul in the box in stoppage time gave the Hurricanes another opportunity, and Daniel Duk cashed in on what proved to be the winning goal.
The win was big for the Hurricanes, who had their 2010 season end by a 4-2 count at the hands of the Pioneers. It also improved their record to 7-1-1 overall and 3-0 in tough District 6-A/AA.
"We tried to have a normal day of training yesterday, but I think we all had this one circled," Millard said. "We knew that if we got this win we'd have a leg up in the district race, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Said McIntyre: "We needed a game like this. We hadn't played a team like East Hamilton; they pass and move the ball so well, and I thought they outplayed us.
"In the last five minutes, though, we had opportunities to score; we just couldn't get the one to tie it up."