Tigers close season with loss at Pulaski
The Marshall County (4-8-1, 1-4-1) boys soccer team entered the district tournament Thursday night on a regular season ending hot streak, winning three in a row and four of its last five games after starting the season 0-6-1.
The Tigers first round opponent was a familiar foe in Giles County (10-5-4, 5-1-1), the same team that ended the 2015 season for Marshall County and beat the Tigers 4-0 during the fifth game of the 2016 season.
Despite coming into the contest with a four-game losing streak to Giles County dating back to 2011, the Tigers outplayed the third-seeded Bobcats for the majority of the match, but two mistakes put the home team on the scoreboard both times and Marshall County left Pulaski with a hard fought 2-0 loss to end the season.
"We had a phenomenal game plan," MCHS coach Mark Redferrin said. "We had them played perfectly. We had them confused offensively. They got a lot of shots but they weren't quality shots. They didn't play good soccer against us. Our game plan worked flawlessly."
"Unfortunately we just made the mistakes that we didn't need to make in giving up corner kicks and on those corner kicks we didn't defend them properly and we got punished," Redferrin continued. "It's always sad to see a season end but the better team prevailed and unfortunately that wasn't us tonight."
The potent Bobcat offensive attack, which has scored at least five goals in six games with 3.3 goals per game during the regular season, got off the a quick start scoring its first goal off a corner kick just minutes into the contest.
"I was a little nervous after that goal, that was a mistake on me," junior goalie Camron Middaugh said. "I knew I shouldn't have allowed that goal but I knew we could make it back because we play hard. But (the first goal) was nerve wracking."
After the early wakeup call Middaugh was like a brick wall in front of the net, turning back shot after shot by the Bobcats and the Tiger defensive game plan worked to perfection by not allowing Giles County to get high quality shots on the goal.
"We switched to a more defensive formation for this game," junior Caleb Estes said. "Our goal was to cut their passing lanes. They like to kick the ball long and over the top and we decided we are going to take that away and make them play small ball."
"That pretty much worked the whole game," Estes added. "They only scored off two corners or set pieces, rather. They didn't score anything from the field so our defensive strategy worked."
Led by freshman Erick Granados, Seth Ferguson, and juniors Deon Ford and Julian Jones, the Tigers upped the offensive pressure to start out the second half, looking to break even with the Bobcats but several shots passed just right or left of the goal and Giles remained ahead of the visitors.
The Tiger defense held strong for the first 26 minutes of the second half, but with just over 14 minutes left in the contest Giles County scored the decisive goal on a corner kick shot that passed by Middaugh off the head of a Bobcat player.
"Plain and simple, the game came down to corner kicks," Redferrin said. "We talked about that before the game, we talked about it Tuesday night at Community, and we talked about it all week, for the last two, three, four weeks since we played them the last time."
"We cannot give up corner kicks against this team," Redferrin continued. "They punish us. We gave up two the last time we played against them. We gave up two tonight and that was the difference in the game."
The Tigers tried to regain their composure and put a goal on the board, but the Bobcat lead proved to be too much and the Tigers left Sam Davis Field for the second year in a row with the loss.
"We played great defensively," senior Jose Martinez stated. "Our passing was good, everything was good, and they just got a lucky goal there at the end."
"They just have to keep working hard," Martinez added. "They're a great group. I'm pretty sure next year they'll be able to beat Giles."
Although Marshall County finished the year with only four wins on the season, it offered a glimpse of a bright future for this group of Tigers who graduate just three players from the roster.
"Part of the problem early in the season was we were really front loaded on our schedule with a lot of tough teams and a lot of tough competition," Redferrin said. "The schedule got a little easier as the season went on especially the last couple of weeks. Our competition wasn't as good but our team played better."
"We started fine tuning and getting better at things we needed to get better at and we started finally scoring some goals," Redferrin added. "We won three out of our last four games and got on a roll at the right time and that's what you want to do heading into the tournament."
The Tigers early season struggles were highlighted a 2-1 loss to undefeated Fairview, followed by a one goal loss to 3A Lawrence County, a loss to Page that the Tigers led for the majority of the first half, and Marshall County played number one ranked and undefeated CPA tougher than any other team in the district, Page notwithstanding, in a 3-0 defeat in the second game of the year before the three game winning streak to end the season.
"I would tell the players coming back next year to have a great mental attitude in this sport because that gets you everywhere in this game and in life," senior Chase Cisne said. "On this team, with coach Red, the number one thing he wants in a player is a great mental attitude and positivity."