HUNTSVILLE — Anderson County made the short chartered bus ride from Clinton on Thursday clearly expecting easy work with the Lady Highlanders.
After the Mavs scored early to go up 1-0, one of the players on the field announced their goal to be up 5-0 by halftime.
But Scott High had other plans. After being dominated by Kingston in last week’s district opener, the Lady Highlanders played Anderson County neck-and-neck on Thursday, though they ultimately fell, 3-2.
The game was tied until AC scored on a well-played long ball with 15 minutes remaining. Scott High had a couple of opportunities to tie the game again, but were unable to cash in.
Still, coach Eric Henry, who questioned his team’s motivation and desire after a 9-0 loss to Kingston last week, was not disappointed with the effort.
“Overall, it was a much better effort tonight,” Henry said. “It was disappointing to lose 3-2. But we played better.”
Scott High was short-handed for the game, with two starters — Chloe and Katie Tucker — out due to quarantine, and a third starter — Zoey Terry — still out with a knee injury. Throw in some more quarantines and injuries, and the Lady Highlanders only had 15 available players.
“I came out and I was looking, and I told the girls, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen that few Lady Highlander soccer players during a game in forever,’” Henry said. “We’ve always got 20-plus girls. But you know what? I had 11 to start the game, and I had 11 that finished the game. I have girls that want to play, and I have girls that play hard, regardless.”
At one point, every freshman who was available to play was on the field for Scott High. One of those freshmen, Alyssa Crabtree, scored a goal midway through the first half to tie things up.
“Alyssa hasn’t played upfront for us a lot,” Henry said. “But I put her upfront because of her speed, and she did what she always does. She runs fast, she finds the ball, and she kicks it.”
Anderson County reclaimed the lead on a drop ball just in front of the box after a referee’s inadvertent whistle late in the first half. Then Olivia Rector scored early in the second half to again knot things up, and it stood that way for nearly half an hour.
“I thought we were going to be playing some golden goal,” Henry said.
In addition to only having four players who could sub in, the Lady Highlanders were using players in a starting role who aren’t accustomed to starting.
“Those young girls played a lot,” Henry said. “Alyssa played 70 minutes before she got hurt. Praylee (Sexton) played 60 minutes. These are girls that are usually subs. Their bodies are not used to going 80 minutes hard like some of these other girls, like Liv and Kaitlyn (Butts) and Higgy and Rachel (Garrett).”
Scott High and Anderson County are rivals in soccer — a rivalry that was heightened last year when the Mavs showed up at Highlander Stadium to cheer on Kingston in a key district game late in the season. Things were testy at times during Thursday’s matchup, both on the field and on the sideline. Anderson County was awarded two yellow cards for unsporting behavior, and could’ve easily obtained more. Henry’s feathers were ruffled when the freshman Sexton went down with an injury and a coach said to his player, “Well done.” At the same time, tempers flared on the sideline when an Anderson County fan yelled that Sexton was faking the injury.
Earlier in the second half, the biggest cheer of the night from the Anderson County side came not on any of the Mavs’ three goals, but when Crabtree went down with an injury on a collision with the goalie.
That play was Scott High’s best opportunity to force overtime. A long ball was well played, and Crabtree broke free. The Anderson County goalkeeper made a well-played — and clean — attempt at the ball to deny the save.
The loss drops Scott to at least third in District 5-AA, meaning the Lady Highlanders will travel for the first round of the district tournament next month, likely to Kingston or Anderson County.
“We were better across the back tonight than we were last week, but we still had too many mistakes,” Henry said. “Bella (Sharpe) is probably all of 14 years old playing at this level as a keeper. But she learns every game.”