By Jesse Smithey
MURFREESBORO — Shortly after Oscar Turcios scored his second goal of the first half Tuesday, Gatlinburg-Pittman boys soccer coach Zach Schrandt voiced his displeasure over his players’ lack of enthusiasm over the score.
The Highlanders were up 2-0 in the 15th minute of the Class A state quarterfinal, and they were treating the moment like some preseason jayvee game.
Schrandt — as high energy as they come — wanted to see his players relish the setting a little more.
After all, there was no season nor postseason in 2020.
“Sometimes, I think we’re just a bit robotic,” said Schrandt. “It’s like, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to Murfreesboro again.’
“It’s like, ‘Guys, enjoy the moment!’”
The Highlanders heeded their coach’s advice the rest of the way and cruised to a 9-0 win over Memphis East. The led by eight goals at the half before the game was called during the second half.
Gatlinburg-Pittman (19-3-2) advances to Wednesday’s state semifinal to face Signal Mountain (12-3-3) at 1:30 p.m. in Murfreesboro.
The Highlanders should feel quite comfortable in the latter rounds of this tournament. They won state in 2018 and finished runner-up in 2019.
Memphis East (6-7-1) was making its first state appearance and it clearly showed. They struggled to even get across midfield against a seasoned and motivated G-P team.
Turcio got the scoring going Tuesday with his goal in the eighth minute. He added a second in the 15th minute.
By game’s end, he had seven goals.
The TSSAA website does not have an individual single-game record for goals scored.
Bryson Flynn and Johny Adair had the other two.
G-P finished with 27 gots to East’s three.
“It was a bit more fun. I think they started to enjoy it a little bit,” said Schrandt.
Schrandt and G-P know the semifinals is when the competition really ramps up. And the Highlanders are salivating for another chance to face Austin-East, which beat them in the region championship.
The only way to get that chance is to win on Wednesday.
AUSTIN-EAST MOVES ON WITH EASE
If Austin-East had any first-timer nerves Tuesday, it didn’t show. Once they got their first goal in a Class A state quarterfinal against Gibson County, the floodgates opened.
The Roadrunners stormed to a five-goal halftime lead and then coasted the rest of the way to an 8-0 victory.
Seven of the eight goals were unassisted, and seven different Roadrunners scored on Tuesday.
Austin-East’s season has been one of firsts: the first region title, the first sectional win and now the first state-tournament win.
Ezekiel Nsabiyunva got the the Roadrunners on the board first with a goal in the 13th minute.
Some 10 minutes later, A-E led 5-0. Masudi Nyembo, Cheikhna Seck, E. Torres-Gahmez, Tumusifu Emmanuel, Ezzuldin Fawwaz and Brian Carmona all netted goals.
Nsaybiyunva got his second goal in the 68th minute.
The Roadrunners (13-2-1) advanced to face Merrol Hyde (15-4-1) at 1:30 p.m. Central on Wednesday in Murfreesboro. Hyde, like Austin-East, is in its first-ever state tournament,.
Merrol Hyde is based in Hendersonville.