There's no doubt that Boyd-Buchanan played well enough to win its Class A/AA boys' state soccer sectional at home Saturday night.
But two unlucky breaks in overtime prevented the Bucs from doing so.
After giving up an early goal to Murfreesboro Central Magnet School, Boyd-Buchanan created more than enough chances to equalize, but it took until the final minutes for them to do so. And as the match advanced to overtime, it was the Tigers who finished two of their chances in a three-minute span.
The 3-1 victory puts Murfreesboro Central in the state tournament next week, and ends the Bucs' season at 15-5-3.
"We're just so proud of their effort tonight," Boyd-Buchanan coach Dustin Walker said. "I don't think I've ever been part of a team that works so hard. It just didn't go their way tonight, and I hate it for them, because they worked hard enough to win."
The Region 4-A/AA runner-up Tigers got on the board about 10 minutes into the match when Luke Duross headed in a corner kick, but 3-A/AA champion Boyd-Buchanan recovered quickly. Walker said he was proud of the way his team responded to the early deficit.
"After they scored, I honestly feel like our guys kind of put them on their heels for the rest of the game," he said. "They just pressed and pressed and had opportunity after opportunity. But in games like this, sometimes it just comes down to the way the ball bounces. When you get to this point, everybody is good, so it's just whoever is able to take advantage of their opportunities."
The Bucs' scoring chances were plentiful in the second half, and included a number of near misses and key saves from Tigers keeper Kris Dobson. As the clock wound down inside the four-minute mark, Boyd-Buchanan worked its way into the box yet again, and the effort paid off with a corner kick with 3:05 left to play. Seconds later, Kenny Diaz fired the ball into the box, and Zach Jenkins was there to finish it for the equalizer.
Boyd-Buchanan had several looks at a go-ahead goal in the final minutes, but the match advanced into two 10-minute overtimes. With 3:50 remaining in the first, Duross came through for Murfreesboro Central again when he found an open spot to head a thrown-in into the back of the net.
When Christian Hortert fired a long shot through the hands of the Bucs keeper about three minutes later, the 3-1 deficit proved to be too much to overcome. And when the reality of the season-ending loss set in, missing an opportunity to play in the state tournament wasn't the hardest part for the Bucs to accept.
"The guys on this team have played with so much heart," Walker said. "Our leadership is amazing. Our seniors have just been servant leaders, and it was so infectious. It was so much about team this year, and we're so sad that it's over because we love what we had. It's always hard to lose, especially a game you know you could've won, but the toughest part is just knowing that we're not going to be together anymore."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)