BY DAVE LINK
MURFREESBORO – Alcoa’s bid for its first boys’ state soccer championship in program history fell short Friday afternoon at Siegel Soccer Complex.
But just barely.
Madison Magnet of Jackson beat Alcoa 4-2 in penalty kicks after the two teams played to a 2-2 tie in regulation and overtimes.
The Mustangs (20-0-2) won their first state title in program history. They beat Alcoa 3-2 in the state quarterfinals last year before losing in the final to Gatlinburg-Pittman on penalty kicks.
“I can’t say the better team won,” Alcoa coach Andy Byrd said. “I’ve been in many games when I can say that. It just stings that way, and it’s a hard lesson to learn for these kids.”
Alcoa (15-9-3) was making its fifth state appearance and its first in the state final since 2009 when it lost to Christian Academy of Knoxville 4-2 in the Class A-AA championship.
The Tornadoes trailed Madison Magnet 2-1 and scored in the 77th minute, forcing the two 10-minute overtimes.
Sophomore Leo Santos got his second goal of the game off a long throw-in by Jaden Dyer, knocking the ball past Madison Magnet goalkeeper Roy Macias from close range.
“It comes down to being resilient,” Byrd said of the late goal, “and this whole year, way back in November, it was all about being resilient, and the whole goal was being able to overcome adversity and never give up. That’s what they did.”
Santos spent three years at the Nashville Soccer Academy before joining Alcoa this year.
“Leo is a player who’s special,” Byrd said. “In any coach’s life, if you go at it for 30 years, you’re going to have 10 players that come in and can really push through and rise above the fray, and Leo does that. … Leo’s done a really good job, coming in not having any high school experience, and adjusting his game and learning to become a teammate.”
Alcoa’s chances of winning the PK shootout were dim when Macias blocked Alcoa’s first two PK shots by Andrew Knight and Jaden Dyar.
Madison Magnet took a 2-0 lead in the shootout when Donovan Pruitte and Jack Young scored past goalkeeper Alex Lopez.
Alcoa’s Bacon Lauderback scored in the third round before Madison Magnet’s Braden Nye scored for a 3-1 lead going into the fourth.
Jacob Knight then scored for Alcoa, and Kyle Korth scored for a 4-2 lead, ending the match.
“The great thing about this team is they’re resilient,” Byrd said. “We’re ready to do a fun camp next week for our community, and then we’re also ready to get back in the weight room the week after. This is where we want to be next year, so 365 days from right here is where we want to be next year, and yeah, we’ve got to move up (to Class AA next year), and we’re totally fine with that.”
Pruitte, a senior and an Alabama-Huntsville signee, scored all three of the Mustangs goals in last year’s quarterfinal and had both in Friday’s championship match.
He has 46 goals this season and 106 for his career.
“We had a plan for him,” Byrd said. “We had to keep him off his right foot. We had one of our best defenders on him. Jacob Baumann did a great job of coming in and shutting him down. We did a great job with him, but what a great, fantastic player (Pruitte) is. He’s hard to mark up and Jacob Baumann did a great job.”
Alcoa took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute on Dyar’s assist to Santos, who scored from near the goalie box.
The Mustangs tied it 1-all in the 22nd minute when Young booted a corner kick to Pruitte for the goal.
Madison Magnet took a 2-1 lead in the 28th minute on a penalty kick.
Nye, an Auburn-Montgomery signee, was fouled inside the 18-yard box, and Pruitte drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Lopez.
It was still 2-1 at halftime, and Alcoa kept the Mustangs in check in the second half, forcing the overtimes with Santos’ late goal.
“I think we gave everything we had,” Santos said. “We came in as underdogs and it went to PKs. It’s a good team, but in another day, we might beat them. It was kind of 50-50, and they got the better of us today.”
Madison Magnet finished with 12 shots to Alcoa’s 11.
“It’s great that we came up here and battled and we get second place,” Byrd said. “It’s not that you want it to end that way, but at the same time, it’s not about winning and losing games. It’s about taking care of your boys and girls and developing high-quality individuals.”