On Friday, Signal Mountain soccer coach Richard Northcutt and Arts & Sciences' David Poss were colleagues teaching across the hall from one another at Signal Mountain High School.
But on Saturday afternoon, they found themselves on opposing sidelines of the school's soccer field, each fighting with his team for a spot in the state tournament.
Poss, who has coached CSAS for the past five seasons, had the daunting task of facing the unbeaten and top-ranked Eagles, who kept their winning streak alive with a 5-0 victory in the Class A/AA state sectional match.
Having already made school history with its first district and region titles, Signal Mountain now advances to the TSSAA state tournament for the first time.
"The guys have worked hard this year," Northcutt said. "They're good kids, and they do what they're supposed to do. I always knew we were good, but we didn't know how good everyone else would be. We've never done this well before, or even close to this well, so they take a lot of pride in that."
The heavy rainfall which turned the Eagles' field into a muddy mess created some doubt about whether the match could even be played Saturday, but with the state tournament set to begin Tuesday in Murfreesboro, Northcutt said the teams had no choice but to continue as scheduled.
Signal Mountain took advantage of the conditions, scoring a goal from Joshua Patta two minutes into the match, and getting two from Robert Schorr in an eight-minute span midway through the opening period.
"Arts & Sciences has some very tricky, highly skilled midfielders, but it's a pond right now at midfield," Northcutt said. "It was really hard for those kids to dribble the way they can. The conditions were better for us because we put more things in the air. We're always looking to air it out and find people's heads, so if the ground is bumpy or wet, it doesn't matter."
Stephen Heinichen scored in the final minute of the first half to put Signal Mountain up 4-0, and at the 50-minute mark, Connor Apthorp added the final goal on an assist from Jason Roth. The Eagles' defense, led by keeper Adam Pickett, limited Arts & Sciences to one shot on goal in earning the shutout.
Poss said he hopes Saturday's loss won't be what his team remembers about this season. Instead, he wants them to focus on how they helped return CSAS soccer to championship form with a district title, and a region runner-up finish.
"The thing I hate is that we feel like we're a much better team than what today's score indicates," Poss said. "But today we weren't. I told them not to focus on this game, but on everything they've accomplished this year. You really can't overlook that."
Meanwhile, the Signal Mountain players hope to never forget Saturday's historic win, which sends them into the state tournament with a 17-0-2 record.
"It was pretty fun," said Patta, who also assisted on the Eagles' third goal. "It's always fun to play in the rain. I think we did a great job today. We've played really well this year, not as individuals but as a team, and I'm really proud to be part of that. This is all new to me, but I think it's really great for our seniors. They're such a big part of this team."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Signal Mountain prevailed through wet and muddy conditions Saturday to earn the school's first-ever state tournament berth.
- Photo2 by Jaime Barrett