HUNTSVILLE — Sixteen days ago, Scott High defeated Kingston in a penalty kick shoot-out at Highlander Stadium to claim the District 5-AA regular season championship.
In Thursday’s rematch, the Yellow Jackets made sure there would be no repeat of the drama, securing a 2-0 win in regulation to win the district championship that matters most.
Kingston, which had defeated Scott early in the season by a 1-0 final after an own goal with nine minutes remaining and then withstanding a scrum in front of the net in the final minute, picked up a decisive win on Thursday — one that was not as close as the final score indicated. While the Lady Highlanders played well enough on defense, they managed just one shot attempt until the final 10 minutes of the game, as Kingston completely shut down the offense.
“I told the girls we have to have a better offensive effort,” Scott coach Eric Henry said. “We made some adjustments at the half and put a stronger midfield in, with Tori (Sexton) and Higgy Baby (Mikayla Higginbotham) at center mids. They won a lot more balls and we had a lot more control in the second half. They were passing all around us in the first half. We just gotta find somebody to put the ball in the net.
We have to read better to see what they’re giving us. We have to make better runs on the wings to help ourselves out,” he added.
Kingston scored late in the first half after the ball slipped by the keeper, then added an insurance goal in the second half.
“Kingston played well,” Henry said. “They did a good job. They’ve got two great offensive players there and they did a really good job.
“The girls kept fighting hard,” he added. “They didn’t have any quit in them. We just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to get the ball in the net tonight. But we’ll be back. We’re alright.”
It marked the third consecutive season that Scott High has come up just short in the district championship game.
“It was disappointing, but I told the girls, ‘You oughta be used to it; we’ve lost three in a row,'” Henry said. “That’s harsh, but we have to figure it out.”
Despite the loss, Scott High’s season is not done. It makes the road to a potential state tournament berth more difficult, because the Lady Highlanders will now have to tackle that feat on the road instead of potentially being at home all the way. Next up is an elimination game at Livingston Academy in the Region 3-AA semifinals on Tuesday.
“I told the girls that the only thing that takes this sting away is to win Tuesday and Thursday of next week,” Henry said.
Proving that a loss in the district tournament championship game isn’t an end-all, there are several parallels between the current situation and the 2018 season, when Scott last hosted a district championship game.
The Lady Highlanders lost that district title game by two goals, to Anderson County, then went on the road to Livingston in the region semifinals and came away with a thrilling win in the final seconds to advance to the substate for the first time in program history.
Livingston defeated Cumberland County in the District 6-AA championship game on Thursday, 3-2. The Lady Highlanders and Wildcats played to a 2-2 tie at Livingston early in the season. Livingston was short-handed in that game, with several players quarantined due to Covid. However, it was not clear how many of the players who missed were contributors.
The Wildcats will enter Tuesday’s game with a record of 11-2-2. They lost to Anderson County in the season opener, 1-0. There are no more common opponents between the two teams. Livingston defeated Rockwood 6-0 in a game earlier this season. Thursday’s game marked the third time the Wildcats have defeated Cumberland County.
“We have an opportunity to be at Kingston next Thursday,” Henry said, referring to a potential rematch in a region championship setting if both District 5-AA teams win on Tuesday.