The Signal Mountain boys’ soccer team did more than just spoil Notre Dame’s senior night on Thursday.
After Robert Schorr scored off Graham Eschmann’s throw-in in the opening minute, the Eagles went on to preserve their unbeaten record and secure their first-ever District 7-A/AA regular-season title with a 2-0 victory over the Irish.
But even the very early lead wasn’t enough to make coach Richard Northcutt’s now 11-0-1 Eagles feel secure against a tough Notre Dame team.
“It was almost a little surprising,” Northcutt said. “It was kind of too early to even celebrate and be happy. You start out with the 1-0 lead, but we didn’t feel confident with that. You know you’re going to have to keep playing.”
The Eagles did just that, and their work paid off in the 26th minute when Brian Hodges sent a free kick off the Notre Dame wall and into the net.
“In soccer, if you get the lead, that’s a huge plus,” Northcutt said. “You haven’t won, but you’ve taken a good step forward. With two goals, though, they say 2-0 is the most dangerous score. If they score late on some of the chances they had, they’re going wild and you’re just surviving for your life, clearing things.”
The Irish created several dangerous scoring opportunities that would have cut Signal Mountain’s lead in half, including several late in the second half, but keeper Adam Pickett and the Eagles’ defense preserved the shutout.
That defensive effort has played a key role in Signal Mountain’s success this year. Thursday’s match marked the eighth shutout of the season for the Eagles, including a 0-0 tie against Georgia Class AAAA power Southeast Whitfield, the only match this season in which Signal Mountain has not claimed a victory.
“A couple of results during the season made me feel like we could be good,” Northcutt said. “That built our confidence even before our district matches. I started to feel like we really could beat anybody, because defensively, we were doing our job well and not giving up goals against good teams. If we’re doing that, we know we can always be in it.”
Signal Mountain has two matches, with Cleveland and East Ridge, scheduled before postseason play begins. He said the Eagles, now 4-0 in district play, will likely host the winner of a semifinal match between Notre Dame and Chattanooga Christian in the 7-A/AA tournament.
“We have one week before the district tournament,” Northcutt said. “We have some tough games coming up, but having not lost, I really would like to keep that intact. It’s very rare for a team to have the opportunity to finish undefeated.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)