Warren County thought when it won Tuesday against Soddy Daisy and Cookeville lost, it would have homefield advantage in the District 6AAA finals. Nobody was expecting Rhea County to show up with a busload of fans and an insatiable hunger for a title.
The Eagles turned WCHS soccer field into their home for a night, taking down the Pioneers 5-0 for the championship. With the loss, Warren County will now have to travel to Ooltewah next week in the Region 3AAA tournament.
“We were flat and they had momentum from a quick goal and a great fanbase,” said Pioneer coach Matt Jackson. “We couldn’t get anything going.”
Rhea County scored in the opening 10 minutes, then took total control with a pair of goals only two minutes apart late in the first half. They added two more goals in the final 20 minutes, leaving no doubt while winning as an underdog for the second time this week. The Eagles entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed but swept top seed Cookeville and No. 2 Warren County in the span of 72 hours.
Warren County never seemed to find its flow against the Eagles, a squad the Pioneers had beaten on the road 2-1 April 27. In the win in Rhea County, the Pioneers were up two goals with a minute left, but still had to survive a huge push by the Eagles in the span of 60 seconds.
That flood of momentum seemed to carry into the championship game. Rhea County was flying around the field, while the Pioneers seemed to be a step slow at every attack. It only got worse as the Eagles took the early lead, which grew quickly.
Warren County may have suffered the natural letdown that follows a big win. The Pioneers poured a lot of effort into Tuesday’s match against Soddy Daisy, turning a halftime deficit into a 4-2 victory that made sure they would continue their season. All the speed and precision of Tuesday’s second-half domination was gone by Thursday, replaced by Rhea County’s aggression.
While it was tough to fall hard on their home field, the Pioneers know they will have new life next week. The Pioneers and Owls will battle in the region semifinals, with the game time still waiting to be set.
After Thursday’s game, District 6AAA awards were presented. Pioneer senior John Jackson took home the biggest honor, winning District 6AAA MVP after scoring at will throughout the regular season.
Warren County also had three first-team, All-District 6AAA selections (Marvin Franco, Carter Smith and Jordan Ramirez), and second-team honorees Joan Garcia and Jahier Martinez.