By R. Alan Richardson
In a hotly contested and physical match, the boys’ soccer team run in the state playoffs came to a screeching halt in the Sweet 16 when the Tattnall County Warriors came to town. The Bulldogs had a number of opportunities throughout the game, but especially in the second half, for additional goals, but the squad just couldn’t find the back of the net. The final tally of 2-1 shows just how close the two competitors were to one another. The mere fact that this was Tattnall’s first year participating in high school soccer speaks loudly about where this program is headed in the future.
The first five minutes ended in a stalemate as the teams seemed to be feeling each other out. At the 33:00 and 31:00 minute marks, Morgan missed two golden opportunities at goals with shots. Collin Sitzman played a solid game in the goal making several nice saves in the first half. Tattnall matched Morgan’s footwork, speed, and unselfish play until MOCO struck first with 11:19 remaining on a Finn Williams rocket that put the good guys up 1-0.
Tattnall picked up the pace and missed four chances to tie things up before the half. One of the best plays of the first 40 minutes came with :45 seconds remaining. Tattnall’s shot from inside the box was tipped by Sitzman and hit the crossbar sailing high to leave Morgan with the 1-0 lead at the intermission.
The Warriors dug in the second half scoring two goals early. The first came with only four minutes missing off the clock. It bounced off the sidebar into the net for the 1-1 tie. Tattnall again struck pay dirt with 29:25 on a nice pass to the front of the net that was easily pushed in. It would prove to be enough for the win.
The game, particularly in the second half, was marred by numerous fouls, penalties, and yellow cards on both teams. The midfield official was particularly loud with the players and making calls that players, coaches, and fans took issue with This guy was throwing out cards like a Las Vegas dealer and it hurt the Dogs worse than their opponent.
Morgan would love to have a number of their opportunities back as shot after shot went wide and high or was blocked by their excellent goal play. One ball had the Dogs’ sideline fuming when many thought it crossed the line and should have tied things up, but it was not to be. Instant replay might have come in handy on that one.
The senior laden team was crushed as the buzzer sounded to end the best season in Morgan County boys’ soccer history 2-1. This team has worked so hard. It was a shame to see the season end like this.
Coach Aaron Paul, in his third season as head coach, is also the head middle school football coach. He commented on the year with these words, “I enjoyed watching the team mature from a bunch of really good soccer players into a really dominant team. We definitely had some bumps in the road, but watching everyone this year compared to last year, and just watching the growth as a team from January until now was very fun to watch. None of this would have been possible without first year assistant coaches Bo Larkins and Thomas Hughes. They both contributed countless hours to preparation and film breakdown with our guys. They also added much needed insight into our game plan as a team. They both were a tremendous help and we would not have been as successful without them. Winning in the first round was very exciting, but also new territory for me. It was very fun, but we very quickly had to turn our attention to our next round opponent to make sure we were ready. I was in disbelief when we finally realized the season was over…and so were all of the players. I am looking forward to working with a new team and the challenges that come with that. Even though we have very few starters graduating, we will still have a new team with its own set of dynamics. Our standard is set and our expectations are high so we will have to work hard to make sure we can meet our goals and expectations. Everyone will have to step up, juniors, seniors, sophomores, and freshmen. It will take the entire team, and both the varsity and JV squads, working hard to achieve the same amount of success we had this year. Despite the success we have many areas in our game that can improve and I am looking forward to building on that for next year.”
For the 2017 season Tristin Sewell, Phillip Webb, Grant Friddell, Williams and Carlos Hernandez led the offense with their scoring and Sewell was the leader in assists. The nine seniors will be missed as the boys look to next season, but juniors Wesley Butler, Ben Adams, Williams, and Sitzman will be back with starting experience. Their contributions this year will lead the young Dogs in 2018 as they try to duplicate and build on the successes of this season. MOCO ended the season 12-5 overall, 9-1 in 8-AAA region play and won the first-ever 8-AAA Region Championship in boys soccer. It was a season to remember.