Unfortunately for Cleveland, it was the Coffee County Red Raiders who came out on top, 2-0, Tuesday night at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex.
“We came out and we played well in the first half. We were working the ball around and playing quick, but lacked that killer instinct in the 18 [goal area],” Blue Raider head coach John Brose explained. “We got ourselves in good positions, and then they (Coffee County) just showed some gritty performances in the box and were able to clear the ball away.”
The District 5-AAA champs played toe-to-toe with Coffee County in the first half of the match, often winning control of the ball. Getting a goal didn’t seem out of reach.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t have opportunities, that’s for sure,” Brose commented. “It was one of those nights that the ball didn’t bounce our way when we needed it to.”
After nearly 40 minutes of a virtual stalemate, the Red Raiders were able to get on the board with just four minutes remaining in the first half.
“It just wasn’t clicking up top. Coffee County played hard and took advantage of the opportunities that they got,” Brose said.
A free kick moments later gave the visitors a two-goal lead going into the half. It was all they would need.
When the second half got underway it was clear Cleveland didn’t want to go down without a fight, but the Blue Raider efforts seemed counterproductive as Coffee County was able to hold them scoreless for the remainder of the match.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort. We started to press in the second half and got away from our game a little,” Brose explained. “I think the guys just wanted to get back in it so much that they felt they had to do it themselves, and we forgot to work together a little bit.”
The Blue Raiders’ overall record this season was 11-11. Their District 5-AAA postseason achievements included defeating No. 1 seeded Ooltewah in double overtime, which was followed up with a 3-1 defeat of Soddy-Daisy in the district championship game.
With their season finished, the Blue Raiders will work to fill the void left by their nine graduating seniors.
“We’re certainly going to miss our senior class. They’ve done a lot for us and were a main force driving us to the district championship that we won last week,” Brose reflected.
Despite the loss of a talented senior class, Brose is optimistic when considering the state of Cleveland’s soccer program.
“We’ve got a lot of good kids coming back, I’m excited about the future of Cleveland soccer,” Brose stated. “It’s a small senior group next year, just five of them coming back. We’ve got a lot of good freshman and sophomores this year that are very good technical players. Hopefully we’ll be back in this position in the next couple years.”