HUNTSVILLE — Scott High’s seniors have never finished short of the District 5-AA championship game.
On Tuesday, September 29, it appeared they were taking a personal interest in making sure they get back there again to finish their playing careers.
Several of the Lady Highlanders’ seniors stepped up big in the final home game of the regular season, helping Scott High to a 5-4 win over Kingston in a game that was decided by penalty kicks after 90 minutes of stalemate soccer.
In the end, it was one of those seniors — Julia Butts — who finally lifted Scott High over the top, as she connected on the Lady Highlanders’ fifth and final PK to give her team a walk-off victory over their arch-rival.
Butts had a huge game for Scott beyond the PK, scoring the Lady Highlanders’ only goal in regulation and consistently winning the ball in the middle of the field. But she was just one of many seniors who stepped up. In fact, Scott High coach Eric Henry made sure to point out the defensive play of another of those seniors, Dara Stanley.
“Dara Stanley. She’s a stud on defense,” Henry said. “I want her on offense because she can help us so much. But she is, period, a shut-down defender. She has shut down every stud on every team we have played this year.”
Seniors Tori Sexton, Abby Bridges and Alliyah Nagy were also key in the back for the Lady Highlanders, Allie Bailey came up with a number of huge saves in the goal, and Rylee Cotton played almost every minute in the middle of the field.
The first half was scoreless, though Kingston clearly had the upper hand.
“Kingston played a heck of a first half,” Henry said. “We did not know what we were doing for a while, it seemed to me. The second half was totally different.”
Even though Scott had the upper hand in the second half, controlling possession most of the time, it was Kingston that scored first. The Yellow Jackets scored late, and it appeared that would likely be the difference in the game. But it didn’t take long for the Lady Highlanders to answer, when Butts found the back of the net.
“We kept our chin up, and Julia came down and put one in,” Henry said.
Neither team mounted a serious threat the rest of the way in regulation. Nor did either team get especially good looks at the goal in either overtime period. The Lady Highlanders appeared to be gassed by the end of regulation, but were able to hold Kingston at bay.
“As far as how we gutted that out, I really gave it to them at halftime,” said Henry, who was loud and angry during the intermission. “Nary a one of them flinched. They knew it was true. And then they came out and put it where it needed to be in the second half. If you look at possession in the second half, it was mostly us. Kingston had a few fleeting chances here and there.”
Once the game came down to penalty kicks after two scoreless overtime periods, Scott grabbed a 2-0 lead before Kingston settled down and made things interesting.
Again, it was seniors who stepped up big for Scott High. After Kingston’s first shot was wide right, Stanley made good on her kick. Then after Bailey made a diving save, Sexton connected for Scott High.
Kingston managed to finally find the back of the net on its third kick, but sophomore Olivia Rector answered. The Yellow Jackets then hit two in a row to tie the game heading into Scott High’s final shot. Butts caught Kingston’s keeper flat-footed to zip one by her for the winning goal.
The win allowed Scott High to win the regular season district championship for the second time in three years, meaning that the Lady Highlanders’ postseason games will be played at home. Anderson County’s team was present to cheer on Kingston; a loss by Scott High would have created a three-way tie, which Anderson County would have won. That would have dropped the Lady Highlanders all the way to third in the district standings, meaning an elimination game on the road at Kingston in the semifinals. Now, however, the Lady Highlanders will likely face Loudon in that elimination game, which will be played in Huntsville.
“Everything was riding on this. We could’ve wound up third in the regular season and in the tournament,” Henry said.
Scott High will have a game at Harriman on Thursday to finish up the regular season, then be off for fall break. Henry said his team will not be able to rest on their laurels coming out of the break.
“Regular season champs is nice and sounds good for right now, but week after next, after fall break, it’s not gonna mean a whole lot,” he said. “Everybody wants a piece of Scott High. I told the girls before the game, everybody plays up when they play you.”