Let’s make one thing clear from the start. My technical knowledge about soccer is virtually nil so I’m not speaking from the standpoint of an expert. That said, I watched Morgan County go up against Coahulla Creek in an Elite Eight matchup last week and came away duly impressed.
Our kids played beautifully and more importantly competed fiercely in a contest that took the better part of two-and-a-half hours. My observance was that they played the game physically, skillfully, with great determination and looked, to my untrained eye, to be fundamentally sound.
It was one of the more enjoyable sporting events I’ve been to in a long while and I’ve been to plenty of them. From the outset it was clear that the two teams (both ranked in the top five of Class AAA) were evenly matched and it made for a whale of a game.
Our kids had plenty of support. The big, rowdy crowd that showed up at Bill Corry Stadium was treated to what may well have been the best spring-time sporting event in school history. I don’t really know how it could have more exhilarating.
In order to describe it best, I’d have to use football terminology which I have more knowledge of than soccer. My evaluation would say that our kicking game was brilliant. We had kids who could boot the ball from one end of the field to the other and kids who could make touch passes to their teammates. Additionally we had kids who could strike the ball with velocity and accuracy when needed.
Our running game was outstanding. We had a great deal of overall team speed and had a couple of players who could run like antelopes. This attribute helped us get the ball down the field quickly and pay it off at the end with goals.
Our defense was stout. The Bulldogs played with determination and grit. For large portions of the match they refused to allow their opponents to penetrate the scoring zone and when they did our goal-keeper just kept coming up with splendid saves.
Offensively Morgan was always on the attack and kept the pressure on Coahulla Creek with outstanding passing and savvy spacing. This band of Bulldogs knew how to figure out ways to score against a high quality opponent.
My overall assessment would be that this was a team that certainly had innate talent and skill but one that didn’t just rely on that attribute. They wanted to win and that burning desire was evident from the outset. If I was their coach, I’d be very proud of them.
The only sour note on this afternoon was my opinion (and apparently in the loud opinion of our crowd) of the officiating. As previously noted, I know nothing about the nuances of the game but we seemed to get the short end of the stick on this afternoon. I’m probably wrong about that but we certainly piled up more penalties than did our opponent. Maybe I was just rooting so hard for our kids that it seemed that way.
The score went back and forth. Morgan took a 2-1 lead into halftime but their opponents from Whitfield County were scrappers and they tied it up before our Bulldogs went ahead 3-2 midway through the second half to the joy of a frenzied crowd. Coahulla Creek responded again to tie the score and at the end of regulation, the contest was deadlocked at 3-3.
A pair of ten minute overtime periods did nothing to separate these two elite squads and overtime ended with the match knotted at 4-4. From there, the game moved into penalty kicks to determine the winner. That Coahulla Creek came away with a 5-4 advantage to win the match did nothing to diminish the effort our players had given. This was, to use an old adage, a game for the ages and one that could easily have gone our way. I would venture to say that if the two squads played 10 times, each one would win five.
So I saw a great soccer match and for the first time in my life, began to appreciate the game for, not only the skills that are required, but for the physical nature that it takes on when two quality teams hook up in a high stakes game.
I’ll be back to watch them again next year.