In the olden days before panic-buying became part of the national lexicon and when news of various cancellations and social distancing were mere rumors, two rival soccer teams gathered on the Hot O’Brien pitch to battle for bragging rights.
After two halves of physical play, the Elmore County Panthers edged the hometown Tallassee Tigers, 4-1. Cam Bailey paced the Panthers with two second-half goals in the win.
Despite the victory, Panther coach John Hilbish could see the wear of the season, saying his boys looked “flat-footed” through the first two-thirds of the game.
“We had a tough game against Marbury (last) Tuesday night,” Hilbish said. “It was hot and humid, it took a lot out of us.”
ECHS jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with Reid Swicord punching the first ball through at the 7:16 mark.
The 1-0 tally didn’t change despite a late Tigers surge, and the Panthers continued to hold a narrow lead at intermission.
In the second half, the Panthers turned up the heat and missed an early two-on-one goal. However, the pressure became too much for the Tigers to handle as Bailey slipped a shot into the far corner of the net at the 35:20 mark.
Three minutes later, the Tigers changed field and pushed the ball onto the Elmore County end of the pitch but missed a one-on-one shot as ECHS keeper rushed out of the box and covered the ball.
Multiple Tiger shots on goal later and the Panthers were still up 2-0.
That changed at the 14:03 mark.
Johnathan Wright had been flirting with a goal most of the half, just missing on a couple of different occasions. His third shot, however, rang through as he drove the ball in through a cluster of white jerseys for the first and only Tallassee goal.
“I put the starters back in,” Hilbish said. “We have two keepers, one just came back from wrestling and we are trying to get him sometime in goal. But yeah, we played probably 10 freshmen (Thursday night).”
Following that one shining moment for the Tigers, the Panthers put the game away scoring at the 7:36 mark (Bailey) and driving a final nail into the coffin at 2:46 (Hutch Sharpe).