Just two years ago six coaches got together and formed a Middle School soccer league in this area to provide feeder programs to area high schools. Each high school in Claiborne County sponsored a team pulling students from each of its feeder middle schools in order to have enough players to field a team. In addition to Claiborne and Cumberland Gap the league is also represented by Horace Maynard Middle School, Middlesboro Middle School, Campbell County and Oneida Middle School. October 8 marked the end of a successful second season tournament.
The day began with a match-up between the No. 5 seed Horace Maynard and the No. 4 seed Cumberland Gap. Horace Maynard has been plagued by injuries to some key players this season but came ready to play. After a devastating injury to Jasmine Mason, an eighth grader for Cumberland Gap just minutes after the game started, Cumberland Gap seemed to have a new fire in them. A scoring frenzy ensued with Gabby Garcia putting in two goals while Penelope Stout, Brianna Goins, Abby Mayfield and Taylor Pressnell each added one as well. Horace Maynard’s Fayth Kitts could not be maintained as she put a goal in for Horace Maynard as well. It would not be enough as Cumberland Gap won 6-1 and advanced to round two to face the No. 1 seed Campbell County.
The tournament’s second game saw No. 6 seed Oneida facing No. 3 seed Claiborne. This game went back and forth as a defensive struggle until Macie Sumner broke free and put the Bulldogs on top. Oneida pushed hard but Courtney Daniels had some key saves for Claiborne. As the game progressed Sumner was able to put in another goal to stretch the lead and allow for the Bulldogs to advance with a score of 2-0. Their next opponent would be No. 2 seed Middlesboro.
The first semi-final game was No. 4 seed Cumberland Gap vs. No. 1 seed Campbell County. Still hyped up from the earlier game Cumberland Gap scrapped throughout this game to hold the No. 1 seed scoreless in regulation play. The game ended 0-0, with a special OT format of penalty kicks to decide a winner. Each team chose five players to take PKs and after round one the game was still tied with Penelope Stout putting in one shot for Cumberland Gap while Hanna Ayers of Campbell County made one to keep her team alive. The second overtime required that five new strikers from each team be provided. Allyson Brock was able to make one to tie the game after Hanna Ayers had scored one for Campbell County. With one shot left Campbell County’s Audrey Bishop stepped to the mark and made a beautiful shot in the upper right corner of the net to send Campbell County to the championship game.
The second semi-final game found a confident No. 3 seed Claiborne ready to take on the No. 2 seed Middlesboro. A hard defensive battle went on until Sumner found the back of the net and later a hand ball in the penalty area allowed Mackenzie Walker to step to the mark as add a second goal that would put the game out of reach, allowing Claiborne to advance to the final.
The consolation game for third place pitted No. 4 Cumberland Gap versus No. 2 Middlesboro. Middlesboro and Cumberland Gap both had defensive first halves as the scored remained 0-0. But about halfway through the second half Aly Ramsey weaved her way through the Gap defense to give Middlesboro the lead. The Panthers fought hard and had a couple good shots that Jordyn Ferguson saved for Middlesboro. Late in the game Ramsey slipped by for her second goal to put the game way with a 2-0 victory for third.
The much-anticipated championship game was set with No. 1 seed Campbell County to face the No. 3 seed Claiborne. The Bulldogs had already played two games to Campbell County’s one to get to this battle and they took the field with determination. It was a hard fought game with lots of cheers and excitement. Great play by both keepers kept the game at 0-0 but finally Macie Sumner found a way to get a shot off and gave Claiborne the lead 1-0. Campbell County worked the ball up the field and took shot after shot but Bulldogs’ keeper Courtney Daniels provided the needed saves to keep them scoreless. Then later in the game Emily Wine drove the ball into the corner and sent a beautiful ball across the middle of the field that found Mollie Bolton crashing to the goal to give Claiborne the 2-0 lead which would be enough to give them the championship.
This season was an incredible turn around for Claiborne, who finished in the bottom of the league standings last year to winning the championship this season. Coaches Jason Mustard and Matt Buchanan were both very proud of their team.
The final standings after the tournament games were complete were: First place, Claiborne; second place, Campbell; third place, Middlesboro; fourth place, Cumberland Gap; co-sportsmanship awards, Horace Maynard and Oneida.