MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — For a team that has struggled to score goals at times this season, the Red Bank High School soccer team found itself in a vastly different situation Tuesday afternoon.
Two goals in the first 12 minutes of their Class AA state quarterfinal match put the Lions in a winning situation, but it also put them on their heels as head coach Chris Tillett was unsure how aggressive he wanted his club to be, but in the end it was just enough.
The Lions claimed their first state tournament victory in program history Tuesday, defeating defending state champion Austin-East 2-1 at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. Red Bank (17-5-2) will face Page, which defeated South Gibson 4-0 in another quarter, in Wednesday's semifinal at 5:30 Eastern.
Soddy-Daisy, which advanced to the state tournament for the second time in school history and the first since 2000, fell 2-1 to Valor College Prep. The Trojans' goal was an own goal by Valor.
The Lions received goals by Mohamed Mansaray and Josiah Tillett, both unassisted.
"Our defense has kind of carried us throughout the season," Josiah Tillett said. "So scoring kind of gave us a constant confidence that we needed to kind of just know that we could do this here."
There was also a confidence gained from having played in the tournament last year. It was a quick trip last season, with Red Bank falling 1-0 to Dyersburg in a game the Lions felt they had chances in. So the nerves were essentially gone when Tillett scored his goal eight minutes in and aided by Mansaray's goal three minutes later.
"I think being here last year, you see that you belong," Chris Tillett said. "We felt like we belonged last year and should have made some more noise, so the goal from back in the fall was to get here — which is tough enough out of our district and region — but then to make some noise. There was great energy; it wasn't the surprise of last year, the awe of 'Look at this complex,' there wasn't any of that talk. This time it was relaxed, chilled out watching what's going on and getting ready to go play.
"I definitely think we kind of paid some dues last year and hoping to experience what Austin-East experienced last year. We're hoping to taste that."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.