PORTLAND — The Macon County High School boys soccer squad ended its season last Friday with an 8-0, road loss to No. 4 seed Portland in the District 9-AA Tournament quarterfinal round.
The two teams played less than two weeks earlier, with the Tigers suffering a 4-1 loss at Portland on April 24.
The Panthers built a 4-0 lead by halftime in the rematch.
“The game and season can be summed up with this ... if you cannot capitalize on scoring opportunities, every mistake then is magnified in the defensive third of the pitch and leads to goals against you,” Macon County head coach Nick Hill said. “The first 30-35 minutes, we were playing well, played with good energy, but we let off the gas with 8-10 minutes left in the half. So, the score went from 0-0 to 4-0 at halftime. But much like in the previous games, injuries and lack of experience had already caught up to us, and it showed in this last game of our season. Our players played well in the first half, but we just did not have the depth to keep that pace for 80 minutes against a solid side.”
The Tigers ended their season with a 4-9-1 record.
“The three seniors that stuck with the team all through high school (Nicolas Cipriano, Matthew Evans and Bryson Higgins) have set a solid foundation for next year’s boys team,” Hill said. “We dealt with injuries since we opened practice, one of which was arguably our most talented player who was out for almost the entire season with a knee injury, but we hung with teams we had no business hanging with. That’s something to build off of. Besides our three seniors, I played mainly our underclassmen, two of those being freshman who started almost every single match for us. We will look to continue to grow next season with a talented group of eighth-graders coming up, many of which will get significant playing time next season.”
• In the previous match with Portland, Macon County trailed 2-0 at halftime.
“In the first half our guys played well, but tactically, I put the guys in a bad spot. So, we ended up dropping 2-0 late in the first half. I made adjustments at the half, and we were able to gain momentum and score quickly. Later in the half, we gave up a sloppy penalty, making the score 3-1 after the penalty kick. We held that score for the remainder of the match when I told most of our guys to go forward to try and close down the goal differential, and that lead to a counter attack with 10 seconds remaining. Portland put their final goal into the back of the net making the final 4-1.”
• One day later, the Tigers rebounded with a 2-0 victory over visiting Upperman.
Macon County led 1-0 at halftime.
“It was our senior night, and throughout the game, we were the much better team,” Hill said. “Towards the end of the first half, we started playing down to the competition and played sloppy. Halftime adjustments were made and throughout the second half, and we got back to good form and eventually found the back of the net for our second and final goal. “
• Then, on April 27, the Tigers suffered a 9-1 loss at Greenbrier in their final District 9-AA match of the regular season.
MCHS trailed 5-0 at halftime.
“Overall, Greenbrier is a very good team, which began getting hot the second half of the season,” Hill said. “We were not ready to play. The game overall was sloppy, not only in our play but also the weather, but that obviously did not slow down Greenbrier (which placed second in 9-AA during the regular season.”
• Then, on May 2, Macon County suffered a 5-1 loss at DeKalb County.
The host squad led 3-0 at halftime.
“Dekalb is a pretty good squad out of the district east of us (District 6-AA),” Hill said. “Overall, my boys played well, but our injuries and lack of experience had caught up to us by this point in the season, which was reflected in the past few matches.
“Bryson Higgins scored a well-placed penalty kick in the second half.”
• The Tigers concluded the regular season with a 3-0 loss to visiting Smith County last Thursday.
MCHS trailed 2-0 at halftime.
“It was by far our worst performance as a team all year,” Hill said. “I’m not taking anything away from Smith. They are a well-coached team, and I have a lot of respect for their coaches. But we were not at full strength, and our players seemed checked out the entirety of the match.
“Smith is a really good test for us every season, a good rivalry, but it’s a team we should be beating. A couple of costly mistakes and a bad call in the first half was the difference in the game.”
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