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After playing to five ties this season, it’s no surprise that Tullahoma’s boys District 8-AAA soccer tournament game against Franklin County on Tuesday came right down to the wire. It’s also not a surprise that the two teams were tied in the waning minutes.
With tournament games, however, there has to be a winner. Rather than go into an extra period, the Wildcats found a way to win in the closing seconds.
Josh Thompson set up a final attack, Brady Panter poked the ball in the goal with 18 seconds remaining and Tullahoma survived to beat Franklin County 1-0 on an emotional night for the Tullahoma High School boys soccer team.
“It was a great night, not just for the program, but more importantly for the Thompson family,” said Tullahoma head coach Richie Chadwick. “You could just tell after the final buzzer, when (Franklin County) missed that goal … it was just relief.”
Thompson, a senior appearing in perhaps his final home game, played with a heavy heart after the tragic death of his father, Mike Thompson, on Sunday. The team held a ceremony for the Thompson family — who have been longtime THS supporters — before Tuesday’s game.
Tullahoma (9-1-5) will play at Columbia on Thursday night for the district championship. The Lions earned the tournament’s No. 1 seed on points, even though Tullahoma beat Columbia 2-1 on April 24.
Tuesday’s win guarantees that the Wildcats will play in the Region 4-AAA tournament, regardless of Thursday’s outcome. But the Wildcats needed a win on Thursday in order to host a region game next week.
The win was Tullahoma’s fifth straight, a nice string for a team that went through a stretch of seven games in the middle of the season in which the results rotated back and forth between ties and victories. The Wildcats last lost on March 14.
THS beat Franklin County 2-1 back on April 12, and aside from an 8-0 win over Cascade and a 6-2 win over Lighthouse Christian, each of the Wildcats’ games down the stretch have been close. Of their five straight wins, three have been by only a single goal.
Tuesday’s tournament opener was much the same. It was close in the first half, a 40-minute span that Chadwick said his team used to work out some jitters.
“I felt that we did a little better in the second half. Some of our nerves had a chance to settle,” said Chadwick. “You could tell the first 20 minutes that we weren’t settled in as a core group. (Keeper) Daniel (Graves) made some really nice saves in to keep us in it.”
Tullahoma played hard through the final minute and the Wildcats took advantage when a THS player was fouled with 40 seconds remaining.
“Josh does really well on set pieces,” Chadwick said. “From our angle I thought (his shot) was in. But they made a great save and left it out in front of the net. It was kind of a scrum after than and Brady got the goal.”
Tullahoma then had to hold off the Rebels for 18 more seconds. Franklin County pushed the ball up the field and got off a shot, but missed the goal.
This marks the first time since 2007 that Tullahoma’s boys have advanced to the district final. They will play either Oakland or Riverdale on Tuesday, May 15 in the region tournament opener.
By ROBERT HOLMAN, Sports Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)