CLINTON — The first two times Scott High faced Clinton this year, the Highlanders won comfortably on their home turf.
When it mattered most, on the banks of the Clinch River near downtown Clinton on Thursday, the Dragons nearly had the perfect game plan in place.
Playing his most skilled players across the back, Clinton coach Nick Patterson threw an unconventional approach at Scott High. And it almost worked, before the Highlanders ultimately scraped out a 3-2 win.
“This was a classic trap game,” Scott High coach Eric Henry said. “Nick and his assistants had a great game plan. He had all of his studs across the back line. He had his best ball-handlers and heaviest legs back there.”
With the defensive approach, the Dragons then relied on long balls and mistakes to score goals, and they got two of them — one a long ball in the first half, and the second a score off a free kick when Clinton out-foxed Scott High in an attempt at an offsides trap that had worked in the Highlanders’ favor just minutes earlier.
The first goal put Clinton up 1-0 until late in the first half, when sophomore Connor Stanley scored on a header off a well-placed free kick by freshman Hugo Henry. That goal, which came in the final minute of the first half, tied the game at the intermission.
The Dragons took a 2-1 lead midway through the second half, after the offsides trap failed. It looked at that point as though Clinton might spring an upset. But senior Eli Storey broke free on an assist by junior Ira Marcus, to tie the game with 13 minutes remaining.
Then, Stanley came up with a repeat of his first half goal — scoring in the final minute to give the Highlanders a 3-2 win.
“We had 718 shots and 712 of them were right at the keeper,” Henry said. “Which, he did a good job, he had a couple of good saves. We finished when it counted. We just need to not shoot at the counter every time.”
The win gave Scott a fourth place finish in District 5-AA, and means the Highlanders will host Monday’s first round district tournament game against Clinton. Kickoff has been set for 5:45 p.m.
The reason for the unusual kickoff time? There are no lights at John John Yancey Memorial Park.
“If you look at how this game turned out, we might be looking at overtime,” Henry said.
The winner of Monday’s game will face Loudon in the District 5-AA semifinals.