The Tigers’ season came to an end in the second round of the state playoffs last Wednesday after two second-half goals from North Murray off set pieces was enough to force Dawson County to leave Chatsworth with a 2-1 defeat.
“We knew that (North Murray) had several set pieces that they were going to utilize,” Coach Derek Waters said. “We tried to do the best we could to simulate some of those in practice and to make sure we had guys marked up, but you just can’t simulate someone who’s that effective at those pieces especially when there’s so many of them.”
The Tigers (6-8-1) struck first in the contest after senior Nathan Blythe took a pass from sophomore Michael Velasquez and buried it past the Mountaineers goalkeeper just past the halfway mark of the first half, but after taking the 1-0 lead into halftime, the Tigers struggled to handle the North Murray (15-1-2) pressure and the officiating in the second half.
North Murray came out fast in the second half. Not wanting their season to end, the No. 2 Mountaineers scored less than three minutes into the half off a free kick near the leftfield sideline, just outside the penalty box. The ball soared across the face of the goal with a North Murray attacker getting a head on it to tie the game 1-1.
The Mountaineers took the lead with a little under 23 minutes remaining on a header off another set piece. This time North Murray was able to convert off a corner kick, but it was almost a carbon copy of their first goal. The corner was taken from the left-hand side of the field with the ball soaring across the face of the goal with a North Murray attacker finding a way to get on the end of it to head it past junior goalkeeper Braden Davison, who ended the game with 13 saves.
After relinquishing the lead, it was hard for the Tigers to muster any kind of attack and the officials weren’t doing them any favors. Any time a run from North Murray was interrupted with any kind of contact, a foul was called with several Dawson County players going so far as to receive a yellow card, but whenever the Tigers were able to muster a run, any contact from North Murray was deemed acceptable which in a high-stakes playoff game, was extremely frustrating for the players, coaches and even the fans on the Dawson County side.
“It’s frustrating especially when so many calls don’t go your way,” Waters said. “We keep trying to talk to the guys that we got to try to play through that and not let that have an outcome on the game. We really tried hard not to let that effect the game.
“We tried the best we could especially in the atmosphere. It’s a very emotional game anyway, so it’s hard sometimes once our guys get that in to dial it back away from it and get (those bad calls) out of your mind and keep playing, but I’m proud of the effort they put in and not giving up.
Despite the loss, a Sweet 16 appearance is something Waters wants his players to be proud of especially with all the adversity this team and this community faced with the passing of Coach Jed Lacey in August.
“There are no real morale victories,” Waters said. “But aside from all the adversity that’s come in to play this season from the beginning of the school year, all the questions that (the players) had to have. You know, the trust that they were able to put into us (the coaches), the trust that we put in to them and the way that we all pulled together and kind of relied on each other to get where we are…could not be more proud of them for getting here.”