Jackson County's girls’ soccer team beat cross-town rival East Jackson in a 2-1 battle at Panthers Stadium Tuesday.
Coach Joe Ridgway said the win was an “emotional” one as the Lady Panthers secured a state playoff berth and still have a shot at the no. 2 seed in region 8-AAA with one conference game remaining.
A win against Morgan County (7-5, 2-4 in the region) means JCCHS (11-3, 5-1) will host in the first round.
The key match is 5:30 p.m. Friday at Morgan County.
“Our goal was to make it to the playoffs and we did,” Ridgway said.
“(The win Tuesday) was an emotional win.”
Katie Phillips opened the scoring in the first 30 minutes of play against the Lady Eagles.
But EJCHS countered with a beautiful goal scored from 40 yards to the back post, to tie the game 1-1 at the half.
"Hayleigh Smith was able to get a shot in the net," the Lady Eagles' coach Ruth Collins said. "It was a beautiful goal from well outside the 18 that hit in the upper 90 of the goal. It was the kind of shot that you want to see on replay. That goal was just was the team needed to see that this game could go either way."
The beginning of the second half played out like the first, with the Lady Eagles' focusing their defense on the Panthers' key players up top.
The intensity grew after the JCCHS' Jessica Wells broke the tie to give the Panthers the go-ahead goal in the second half.
"The game got very intense even after Jackson scored their second goal," Collins said. "East Jackson played very well. Although we did not win, I told the girls that there was no reason to leave the field with their heads down. They played great and gave Jackson County a very tough game, besides a win, I could not have asked for more."
Ridgway complimented the Eagles for their rigid defense and solid play overall.
“They bunkered down on us,” Ridgway said. "They had a good keeper. We had lots of trouble scoring on them. We played well, they played well. That game is always going to be a big game, both teams always play up. They counter attacked quite well. We were lucky enough to get the win.”
Entering the Morgan County game, JCCHS will be forced to sit out two starters because of injury and a double-yellow card violation.
The fallout of the losses added to the emotion of Tuesday’s match, he added.
“We have to hold it together for Morgan,” Ridgway said. “That is our last region game.”
After that comes the regular season finale against, and anticipated showdown with, another inner-county playoff team.