It was a quintessential Signal Mountain day: gloomy clouds hung overhead and fog sat upon the ground. The faintest presence of a misting rain could also be felt right before the Eagles kicked off their quest for a fourth straight state championship against the visiting Hixson Wildcats. The Eagles routed Hixson 5-0, but while the lopsided score might imply one-sided effort, both teams gutted out 80 minutes of extremely physical play.
On this dreary evening, midfielder Lily Whitney was a dominant force in the midfield alongside Jenny Daverson, expertly linking the excellent defense with the attacking duo of Ava Duffey and Kara Wilson.
The mighty Signal Mountain attack sprinted out to a 3-0 lead within the first 20 minutes, with Whitney scoring one and defender Maddie Avery screaming in from her defensive back spot to boot one in.
But the scoring dried up after that, in no small part because of the tenacity of a shorthanded Hixson team suited up 11 girls that night. Elizabeth Jones, Kendal Easterly, Sarah Brotton, and Rebekah Fuller became an impassable line for Eagle attackers. Signal Mountain did not stop challenging that back line, firing shot after shot, many of them high over the crossbar.
“We lacked a little bit of enthusiasm after those first three goals, and it’s fine” coach Rick Northcutt said. “Hixson was depleted and I think two of their players got hurt by the ball hitting them (in the head/face), so you just do what you can do and play your game, and move on.”
Hixson’s freshman goalkeeper Lauren Fuller was excellent to end the half and intercepted multiple shots and crosses in her area. Signal Mountain generally dominated possession but their defense, led by the likes of Julia Dieter and Ellie Henderson, snuffed out any Hixson attack before they could materialize.
After Lauren Fuller had to leave the game due to injury at halftime, Chloe Howard stepped into the lime green keeper kit while the rest of the now 10-girl Hixson squad competed to the very end. Coach Northcutt’s team also displayed exemplary sportsmanship by taking out a player of their own to equalize numbers on the pitch.
Madeline Daverson used space on the right sideline the 44th minute to get a shot off and into the goal, with the degree of difficulty extremely high due to the tight angle of the shot. A few minutes later, Whitney converted another 20 yard circus shot over the keeper’s outstretched arms to make it 5-0 with around 30 minutes to go in the game.
To Hixson and coach Ashley Beverly's credit, Paola Perez, Ashley Leon, and Addison Johnston kept on bombing downfield until the final whistle in search of a goal. And their emergency goalkeeper Chloe Howard made a number of solid plays as the final line of defense. In the 61st minute, she made a full-extension leaping save to her left to swat away a free kick taken from point-blank range.
The Eagles won’t have to travel a centimeter to play their next opponent. The weather may be slightly nicer, but the setting will be familiar as the Eagles will host their next opponent. That adversary will be Soddy Daisy, 5-1 winners over East Ridge.. The Eagles will get in one more practice on Wednesday before they host on Thursday.
“We’ll be better in the morning, and we’re going to try to work on not shooting the ball over the goal 4,000 times in our next game,” coach Northcutt said. “That’s what happens when you lose some intensity and focus. You start to lean back, and next thing you know it ends up in the trees.”
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