South Knox's game plan was to contain Jac-Cen-Del's high-scoring forward Jacob Jines, on Saturday, but Yuki Casado was more than happy to make the Spartans' boys soccer team pay.
Casado opened the scoring in the Class A Providence Regional in Clarksville on Saturday, and after South Knox erased a two-goal deficit, Casado put in the difference maker late as the No. 5 Eagles edged the No. 6 Spartans, 3-2.
Collin Myers and Abe Singleton put in the Spartans' goals with assists from Dakota Candler and Evan Miller. Keeper Logan Fisher had 12 saves. Jines was still active for the Eagles (16-3-1) finishing with an assist and a goal.
It was the fifth regional appearance for South Knox (17-2-1), all coming in the last seven years, but it was the fourth time they've failed to reach the championship match. However, the Spartans entered Saturday with just one regional goal, so coming back from an early 2-0 hole was an impressive accomplishment.
“We fell just short in our quest for a spot in the regional championship,” South Knox coach Tim Goodwin said. “After falling behind midway through the first half, the team dug deep and battled back with two late goals to go in tied at halftime.
“That led to a tense second half. We were so close, but unfortunately close doesn't cut it.”
South Knox packed in its defense and conceded possession to Jac-Cen-Del for much of the second half, but the Spartans took their chances when they came. The best opportunity came in the 66th minute when Owen Lancaster fired a shot from about 30 yards out that glanced the cross bar. Miller also had a close-range look three minutes later that was just wide.
The Eagles finally broke the tie in the 70th minute, when Casado received a pass in the box, dribbled to the penalty spot, and fired one past Fisher with 10:03 showing.
The Spartans made a final push, but their closest chance to equalize came on a long throw-in by Myers into the box in the final minute, but Jac-Cen-Del keeper Nathan Hoffman was there to field it.
“Owen Lancaster had the best chance to put us ahead with a shot from distance that just clipped the crossbar,” Goodwin said. “The boys gave it their all, but we just couldn't find another goal in the dying minutes.”
Casado opened the scoring with 36:31 remaining in the first half after the South Knox defense was burned by a through ball to Jines, and his grounded cross was perfect to Casado, who finished the goal just before Fisher could stop it. With 22:45 showing, Jines was swarmed by Spartans defenders just inside the box, but he still managed to fire a low shot into the net for a 2-0 lead.
While Jac-Cen-Del seemed in control over the the majority of the first half, South Knox dominated the final six minutes. A clearance by Candler served as a long through pass. As Hoffman stepped up to play it, a pair of players from each team also converged, but it was Myers who got a foot to it first, kicking it into the empty net from about 15 yards out for the Spartans' first goal with 5:49 remaining.
The Spartans needed just over three minutes to completely erase the deficit. A through pass from Parker Kimmell on the left side got to Miller just before the Jac-Cen-Del defender. Abe Singleton made a sliding kick on Miller's low cross to steer it into the net for the equalizer, 2-2, with 2:42 left in the half.
It was the final match for South Knox seniors Miller, Myers, Shannon Benock and Logan Mise.
“We'll miss our four seniors next season,” Goodwin said. “Evan finishes with 12 goals, and perhaps none more important than the goal to win the sectional championship, and Collin Myers provided that assist with one of his trademark long throw-ins. He had a big goal to get us back in it today. Shannon was a rock on defense and improved tremendously throughout the year. Logan helped in the midfield with his toughness whenever we needed someone to step up.”