With 34 seconds left on the clock, Jorge Graniel ended Tullahoma’s season, finding the back of the net and allowing Central Magnet to notch the 1-0 home win in the District 11-AA Tournament Semifinals on Tuesday.
Despite the Tigers taking control of the game in the second half, Tuesday’s matchup looked like it was going to be headed overtime. That was until Tullahoma was called for a foul, just outside the top left corner of its own box, where Central Magnet received a direct kick.
Graniel made the most of his opportunity, firing the ball into the left side of the net, just past Wildcats’ keeper Will Stone’s outstretched hands, giving his team the 1-0 lead. Tullahoma attempted one final push, but couldn’t get a shot off in time, as the Tigers extended their season.
“It was a battle,” said THS Head Coach Richie Chadwick. “We had some opportunities toward the end … It just hurts. If we are able to clear that final ball, then who knows? If we were to break down the game, there are going to be places where we ask, ‘What could we have done different?’ I don’t know though.
“They are fifth in the state and to take them all the way down to the last 30 seconds, it’s pretty good,” he added. “We didn’t get fully dominated either, because we had some early opportunities.”
After defeating the Wildcats, Central Magnet was scheduled to host Nolensville in the District 11-AA Title Match on Thursday. However, that game was pushed to Friday due to weather and, as of press time, the result of that contest was unavailable. Both teams had already clinched their seats into the region tournament as well, which begins later this week.
On Tuesday, Tullahoma came out attacking early. In the first six minutes of play, the Wildcats fired three shots, all of which were on target. However, Tigers’ keeper Russell Harper was there to grab possession each time, thwarting Tullahoma’s efforts.
From that point, shots were limited for each team the remainder of the first half. The Wildcats put up four more shots in the opening period, the majority from far distances, only of which of landed on target.
Central Magnet managed just four shots in the first half, two of which were on target. Stone was tested just once in the period, making a snag, while another Tigers’ shot hit the top crossbar, going out of bounds.
In the second half, Central Magnet came out strong and dominated ball possession. The Tigers had 11 shots in the final 40 minutes of play, seven of which were on frame.
Stone came up huge for the Wildcats in the final period, snagging six saves, none of them easy. During the final 30 minutes of the match, Central Magnet struck several lasers, but each time, Stone was there to make the save, diving, leaping and blocking the ball from going into the back of the net.
“There were several nice direct kicks struck right at him and he made saves,” Chadwick said. “Just receiving those crosses, they are a team that likes to play wide, and he had some clean hands today.”
Late in the game, the teams were involved in scraps, fighting for ball possession, with the referee’s whistle blowing often. With 34 seconds remaining, a tussle for the ball was ruled to be a foul on Tullahoma, allowing the Tigers to set up for what proved to be the game-winning score.
“I think [Graniel] just hit it that well. He hit it around the wall. That’s a tough call to make [the penalty], because it’s not like their player got completely knocked down,” Chadwick said. “But, I’m not there, so you never know exactly.”
Tullahoma saw its year end with nine wins, including pulling off a 2-1 upset victory at Page in the opening round of the district tournament on May 3. After heading into halftime scoreless, Justus Chadwick and Jose Solorio netted a pair of scores for the Wildcats, giving them a 2-0 edge.
From there, the Wildcats had to hold on, as Page connected for a late score with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. The Patriots couldn’t find the back of the net again, as Tullahoma’s defense tightened, holding on for the win and the Wildcats advanced to the district semifinals.
“They were able to come through some adversity this season,” Chadwick said after Tuesday’s season-ending loss. “We had some adversity throughout the season, including that last week. Losing 1-0 to Coffee County was not easy, and then losing 1-0 to Franklin County wasn’t easy. But they bounced back and played well against Page and again tonight.”