The Signal Mountain soccer Eagles played Friday night at Chattanooga Christian with hopes of avenging their loss to the Chargers last season. In this District 7-A/AA matchup, however, the Chargers came out on top again, 1-0, and added a cushion to their position atop the standings.
"Because it was a district game, just getting the win tonight was very important for us," CCS coach Jimmy Weekley said.
Strong defense set the tone early for CCS (4-1, 2-0). In the first half, whenever it seemed Signal Mountain (3-3-1, 0-1) might be able to generate a scoring chance, the Chargers quickly put a stop to it. The back line for CCS had a considerable size advantage over the Eagles' attackers, who managed only one shot in the first half.
"We've got a lot of young guys on this team — we only have three guys that played last year — so a lot of this is a new experience for these guys," Signal Mountain coach Richard Northcutt said. "I think we were a little nervous; I think we had some butterflies. We're also very small — we have maybe two tall guys on our team — so that gave us issues trying to possess the ball.
Chattanooga Christian dominated possession with impressive ball handling and passing from all positions on the field. The Chargers put six shots on goal in the first half, but all were stopped by Eagles goalkeeper Josh Pickett.
"Their keeper made a couple of really good saves for them and took away a couple of possible goals for us," Weekley said.
For the opening 20 minutes of the second half, the play seemed very similar to the first. CCS was possessing the ball and playing good defense but could not make a scoring play against the pesky defense of the Eagles. A scoreless draw was looking very possible.
"I feel like we were just a step away from creating lots of chances to be a little more dangerous offensively," Weekley said. "We've just got to keep working on getting better at that. Also you have to credit them: Their backline did a great job keeping us in front of them and making it difficult for us to score."
That all changed when CCS was awarded a corner kick with 19 minutes left in the game. Midfielder Drew Bolano sent in a line-drive cross that deflected off a CCS player and trickled out in front of the Eagles' goal. Stephen Cone of CCS got to the ball before anyone else could and drove a shot to the lower left corner of the goal from about 12 feet out.
Pickett made a dive toward the corner of the net in hopes of making another stunning save, but the ball was placed perfectly, rolling past his outstretched hands and into the back of the net. Chattanooga Christian finally had broken through.
"I don't think anybody from either team even got a head on that corner kick before it hit the ground. That's just not good enough," Northcutt said. "There were 15 guys in the area of that ball. If we go after it and get a piece of it, they don't score. That might be attributable again to our youth and possible being nervous. We just weren't as aggressive as we should have been."
After that goal, Signal Mountain became noticeably more aggressive and got a couple of good chances to score an equalizer in the final 10 minutes. Both of those shots died, however, in the hands of CCS goalkeeper, Micaiah Allison.
"I was proud of our boys because we changed our system for tonight's game in one day before this game," Weekley said. "I'm very pleased with our effort. I've known Northcutt for a very long time and his teams are always very organized and difficult to break down, but this time we were able to come out on top."
Said Northcutt: "As time went on I think we got a little more aggressive; we were a little more on our toes late in that game. We had a good attitude and we tried hard, but we failed on some team aspects of the game — things like completing passes, things that we know we can do much better than we showed tonight."
Contact Ted Bryant at email@example.com