The only consistent thing about the Cleveland High School soccer team this season is that the Blue Raiders have been inconsistent. After an emotional District 5-AAA semifinal victory over Ooltewah on Tuesday, the Raiders seemingly went through the motions in their championship match Thursday against Soddy-Daisy.
Yet in the final 40 minutes, they showed the potential that coach John Brose has seen at times all year.
Anfernee Avila scored two goals, and the Raiders claimed their first title since 2010 with a 3-1 win over the Trojans at Soddy-Daisy.
Cleveland (11-10) will host Coffee County, which fell 4-1 to Cookeville in the 6-AAA final, in a region semifinal Tuesday, while the Trojans will travel to face the Cavaliers.
Soddy-Daisy (6-8-2), which also had an emotional victory Tuesday, took a 1-0 edge on a header by Christian Dean in the final minute of the first half.
"I told the guys at the half that we needed to seize the moment," Brose said. "We had 40 minutes to turn things around, and we had to want it more in the second half."
Avila slotted a shot past Davison Byrd in the 43rd minute, then scored again about four minutes later. Jesse Jones scored from about 20 yards out with about 10 minutes to play.
The Raiders snapped Ooltewah's 20-match district win streak Tuesday, winning 4-3 in overtime. The Trojans qualified for their first region tournament since 2009 by defeating McMinn County 13-12 in a penalty-kick shootout. Their coach, Dan Gleason, is directing his last string of matches after taking a teaching position at his alma mater, Bryan College.
"I felt we played tired tonight," he said. "We had tired legs from Tuesday and so did Cleveland, but Brose knows how to play in the postseason and had a good game plan.
"Eventually, the adrenaline from Tuesday wore off."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.