Coach Matt Jackson and returning members of the Warren County Middle School soccer team remembered the feeling of falling short against Shelbyville Harris in the Central Tennessee Conference title game last year. The Pioneers set out Saturday to make sure they wouldn’t have the same feeling this season.
Behind two goals by Jakob Morin, Warren County beat Shelbyville 2-1 in the finals to claim the conference tournament title and complete an undefeated season.
Warren County came into tournament play Saturday with an 8-0-1 record as the tie came in a regular-season match against Shelbyville. It was only fitting the teams would play in the finals, just like they did last season when Harris won 1-0.
Before the Pioneers could face off with Shelbyville though, the team had to get by Coffee County and overcome an injury in the process.
Warren County started play in the CTC tournament with a semifinal game against Coffee County, a team the Pioneers beat handily in the regular season twice. The third matchup was a different story.
The Pioneers started strong, but an early chance at a goal ended up bringing the game to a stand still. Eduardo Cordero rushed toward the goal in hopes of giving Warren County the lead, but the Coffee County keeper came out aggressively and dove to take the ball.
While diving to steal the ball, the keeper struck Cordero’s leg and the Pioneer striker immediately went down in agony. Cordero broke his leg and had to be taken from the field by ambulance.
After losing Cordero and waiting 30 minutes for the game to resume, the Pioneers were slow to regain their aggression. Morin finally put the Pioneers ahead in the second half, but Coffee County was able to tie the game shortly before the end of regulation on a free kick.
Coach Jackson noticed once the game went to overtime, his team flipped a switch.
“It seemed like the team realized what was at stake and came out of a fog,” said Jackson. “We were playing our game, taking lots of shots and were able to score four goals.”
Overtime lasted for two 10-minute halves, which was enough time for the Pioneers to score four times and win 5-1. Juan Casas, Eli McCormick, Jesus De Santiago and sixth-grader Joshua McManus scored in overtime as Warren County advanced to the finals.
Shelbyville defeated Tullahoma 5-2 in the semifinals, setting up a rematch of last year’s final.
Shelbyville came out the aggressor in the final, pushing the pace against the Pioneers and keeping the team on its heels. Warren County welcomed the challenge and played patient in hopes of turning the attack quickly when the opportunity arose.
Morin seized the opportunity the Pioneers were waiting for midway through the first half. After gaining possession following a Shelbyville attack, Warren County quickly flipped the field with a long pass behind the Shelbyville defense. Morin won the foot race to the ball, then sailed a shot past the keeper to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead.
Morin scored again to give Warren County a cushion in the second half. The eighth-grade striker got behind the Shelbyville defense, but faced a keeper rushing out to make the stop as the ball bounced between them. Morin leaped and headed the ball over the keeper and into the goal for his second goal of the game and third of the tournament.
Shelbyville would score late to cut the Pioneer lead in half, but Warren County held on late to claim the championship. The Pioneers celebrated by diving through puddles on the muddy field after the game and trying to give their coach a bath after the game. Coach Jackson was able to avoid a bucket of water heading his way and the team’s eighth-graders were hit instead.
“It was a great team, a great season and a great tournament,” said Jackson. “Unfortunately, there was agony along with the victory with Eduardo’s injury. He’s recovering, but he’ll be off the field for a while.”
The Pioneers ended the season with a 10-0-1 record.