MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Richard Northcutt took a moment to compose his thoughts.
The Signal Mountain soccer coach had just seen his Eagles team, riddled by injuries in the final half of the Class A state championship game Friday, give up two goals in a 5:25 span of the second half and fall 2-1 to Gatlinburg-Pittman at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
So, much like he had just told his team to do moments earlier, he cleared his thoughts before he spoke.
"They have some guys that can go at you with excellent skill," Northcutt said. "Some very, very good players that are difficult to contain. We zoned up; we were where we belonged. We played good 'D,' but you can't stop all chances, so they got a couple."
It also didn't help that, while clinging to a 1-0 lead, heat exhaustion took its toll on the Eagles. First it was Lucas Whitney who had to go out midway through the second half. It had been Whitney's job to shade the Highlanders' Ricardo Turcois, and eight minutes later Turcois scored with a soft touch past the goalkeeper.
Then, in the 72nd minute with Whitney still on the sideline, Turcois scored what turned out to be the game-winner.
The Eagles (15-7-3) had gone up in the 19th minute when Aaron Easterly beat two defenders and was able to score from the right side. That score held up until Turcois took over in the second half.
Signal finished the best season in program history with the District 5-A and Region 3-A championships, the program's second state appearance and the first win at state.
"We can look back and we've done better than anybody in our group," Northcutt said. "We looked good playing today; we looked like we belonged. We won almost all we could win — all but a half — but I told them to not leave the bench until you're ready to go over and see people, be a normal person and think back that we had a good season. I told them to stay here until you're proud of yourself, and then when you are, you leave it here (on the bench).
"We didn't gain eternal life; we played our best. We have nothing to be ashamed of; we played a great game and had a good season."