Patriots hold off Canes in IMAC soccer thriller
DANDRIDGE — A battle of unbeatens in the Inter Mountain Conference produced an exciting match on the pitch at Leroy Shannon Field Tuesday evening. In the end, the homestanding Jefferson County Patriots escaped unscathed.
The Patriots used two goals in a 10-minute span by sophomore defender Grant Seale, and they held off a spirited rally in the closing minutes by Morristown East to take a 2-1 victory.
With the win, Jefferson County remains unbeaten in IMAC play at 4-0, and they improve to 7-4 overall. The loss was just the second blemish for the Hurricanes against six wins, and they fall to 4-1 in district play.
“I’m proud of the way the guys competed,” Jefferson County coach Shawn Way said. “(East) really pressed us at the end of each half, and in the beginning of the match as well. If they had pushed one across in the first 5-10 minutes of the match, that could have set a bad tone for us, but we weathered the storm.”
East coach James Kelley was disappointed in the result but proud of his team not quitting after falling behind 2-nil in the first 33 minutes of the match.
“It was a tough match, and obviously we came out on the wrong end,” Kelley said. “We put together a good second half and made an effort. Jefferson County has a good team, and they showed some of their class tonight.”
The first 15 minutes of the match was controlled by the visitors, who had opportunity after opportunity on goal but could not break through with a goal.
“We put them under pressure for the first 18 minutes or so,” Kelley said. “The guys started well, and I don’t think (Jefferson County) got a decent touch on our half. We had been teaching if you start fast, you will get a reward, but we were a little unlucky at times. We had some decent looks on goal but couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Less than three minutes in, Andy Malicoat fired from just outside the box, but his shot went just a touch high and sailed over the crossbar. Jake Terry and Chris Logan had contested looks in the first 10 minutes as well, but both of their shots were wide right.
The Patriots didn’t get a good look until Carl Weaver had a shot saved by East keeper Walker Rohrer in the 11th minute, but they broke the ice in the 24th minute.
Carlos Gaytan had his header deflected out by Rohrer off a corner kick, but Seale was there to put the ball in the back of the net to put the Patriots on top.
Less than 10 minutes later, Seale netted the eventual game-winner. Jefferson County’s Josh Bolinsky was tripped inside the box by East defender Junior Morales, setting up a penalty kick, which Seale drilled for a 2-nil lead that the Patriots took into halftime.
“I told them all week long it would be a fast-paced match,” Way said. “East is a much improved team from last year, and we just weathered a 15-minute onslaught at the beginning and settled into our game. Grant Seale stepped up with two big time plays.”
The Canes opened the second half in a similar fashion to the first, attacking from every angle to no avail. Brian Guerrero had a bicycle kick saved by Gio Morales less than five minutes in, but 10 minutes later East was on the board.
Terry sent a beautiful crossing pass into the box to a streaking Josue Tomas, who dove towards the ball and sent a header past a diving Morales to bring East within a goal.
The Canes had several chances down the stretch, especially in the final 10 minutes of the match, but nothing could get past Morales. The junior keeper finished with six saves and preserved the unbeaten record in the IMAC for his team with three of those saves in the final six minutes.
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor