KINGSTON — When Scott High and Kingston met on the east shoreline of Watts Bar Lake early in the regular season, the Yellow Jackets dominated from start to finish, winning 9-0 and handing the Lady Highlanders their first mercy rule loss in the program’s history.
The Lady Highlanders were determined that Tuesday’s rematch in the District 5-AA semifinals would be different, and for 50 minutes, it was.
With just 30 minutes remaining in regulation, Kingston clung to a 3-2 lead, and the Lady Highlanders were actually out-playing the Yellow Jackets, who entered the game unbeaten on the season and a huge favorite to advance to the state tournament.
Scott High had played Kingston to a 3-2 halftime score, and then controlled possession for the first 10 minutes. The Lady Highlanders had multiple opportunities to tie the game, but were unable to cash in.
When things turned, they shifted in a big way. Kingston put four goals on the board in a span of less than 14 minutes and cruised to a 9-2 win that didn’t reflect how close the game had been most of the way.
For a Scott High team that had struggled since a 5-0 win over Campbell County in the season opener, the first 50 minutes of Tuesday’s elimination game was a reflection of the way they had played in the final two games of the regular seasons, which were wins over Oneida and Oliver Springs.
“I told the girls at the end of the game, we turned it around and made a lot of improvement with the way that we played,” Scott High coach Eric Henry said. “I never questioned our skill talent. That was never our problem. It was being aggressive and winning balls, and we did a much better job of that in the last 10 days. That’s really the hallmark of what my teams have to be. We don’t play great finesse possession ball. We usually have kids out there that are athletic and aggressive and a couple of girls with speed.”
Kingston scored early in the game on a scrum in front of the net, and it might have appeared that the postseason game was going to go much the same as the two teams’ regular season game.
But Scott High answered on a shot from Ellie Lowe from outside the box that deflected in off the cross bar and tied the game.
Kingston scored the next two, first on a penalty kick and then on a follow, to take a 3-1 lead with 14:54 remaining in the first half.
But Scott again answered when freshman Alyssa Crabtree charged into the box to interrupt a ball that Kingston was attempting to let play to the keeper, pulling the Lady Highlanders to within 3-2 with about five minutes remaining in the first half.
The second half saw the Lady Highlanders come out and control possession in the opening minutes, with multiple chances to tie the game. The best came on a corner kick about 10 minutes in, when a shot attempt by Rachel Garrett sailed wide.
Then Scott, which has battled limited depth all season, began to wear down. And once Kingston gained the upper hand, the momentum switched in a hurry. Kingston scored on a corner kick with 21:30 remaining to make it 5-2 and appeared to have put the game away. The Yellow Jackets quickly followed with two more to make it 7-2.
Kingston opted not to show any mercy. The Yellow Jackets’ main offensive weapons were still attacking in the game’s waning minutes, despite having a 7-2 lead. Kingston scored with three minutes to play to make it 8-2, and continued to attack with their main players to make it 9-2 with just over 60 seconds left.
“I was confused by the first game, when she mercy-ruled me,” Henry said of Kingston. “And I was confused tonight. She had three or four subs over there that she could’ve put in or moved some people around. But you know what? It’s our job to stop them and maybe she gets some self-gratification in running the score up on teams.”
Kingston will host Anderson County in the District 5-AA championship game on Thursday. The Mavericks defeated Clinton in the other district semifinal on Tuesday, 1-0.
Tuesday’s game was the final match for three Scott High seniors: Mikayla Higginbotham, Gracie King and Morgan Shelton. All three were full-time starters this season.
With the bulk of their rotation returning, however, Scott High will seek to bounce back in 2022.
“I think last year I told you, we don’t rebuild; we just reload,” Henry said. “We’ve got a lot of people coming back, and a lot of people that play different positions. We’ll be alright.”