The highest of the highs quickly turned into the lowest of the lows Monday evening for East Ridge soccer coach Jeremy McIntyre.
Moments after watching his team score two goals in the final two minutes to defeat Tyner 4-3 and claim their first-ever District 6-A/AA regular-season championship, McIntyre and Tyner coach Randy Young found themselves in the middle of a near melee between players of both schools. The coaches, along with administration from both schools, quickly rushed to make sure things didn't get out of hand.
No punches were thrown and no discipline is expected from the incident, but McIntyre made it clear to his team that "the moment was ruined" by what transpired after the game.
"It was uncalled for, and I'm embarrassed about what we did," McIntyre said. "I can only assure people that it won't happen again. It ruined what was a great moment for us."
Normally in a district with perennial powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Chattanooga Christian and East Hamilton -- all of which have been in the state tournament in the past three seasons -- the Pioneers (9-4, 6-0) will be the top seed in the upcoming district tournament. But it wasn't easy.
Ten minutes into the match, East Ridge held a 2-0 advantage. The Pioneers scored 15 seconds in when a misplayed ball by a Tyner defender led to a scoring opportunity, with Kolbe King feeding Tad Whitaker for the first of his two goals. Minutes later, King got on the board on an assist by Richard Castro.
Tyner tied the match before halftime on unassisted goals by Jorge Nieves and Eduardo Hernandez. The Rams (6-4, 4-2) then took the lead nine minutes into the second half on a goal by Johnni Orozco, assisted by Nathan Thomas.
Tyner was less than five minutes away from what would have been its first-ever district title, but the Pioneers, who had pushed an extra player up top to aid in their attack, were able to tie the match on a goal by John Mwamba.
Less than a minute later, East Ridge regained possession and Rasim Kazic slotted a pass to Whitaker, and the all-state forward scored the game-winner.
"We got up early, and then our defense relaxed," McIntyre said. "Tyner is an aggressive team; they were fired up and have some players that can play. We got tied late, and I was just hoping for the tie because we still would have clinched first place, but I'll definitely take the win."
Tyner's defense was put to the test throughout the match as East Ridge finished with 19 shots on goal, and 12 other attempts that either sailed high or wide. Ram keeper Kevin Cortes had 14 saves.
"We were so close, yet so far," Young said. "I knew it was going to be a tough, down-to-the-wire match, but the last few minutes were a heartbreaker. I'm proud of our effort: It was top-notch tonight, and we played our hearts out."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.