By Maurice Patton
One last time to wear the purple and gold? Not quite, but members of the Columbia Central boys soccer team will have one final chance to take the pitch together next month.
The Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association 2020 State Championships will take place at Gatlinburg’s Rocky Top Sports World, with the ‘Lions’ among the participants.
“Due to not having Spring Fling, we put together this event,” THSSCA president Russ Plummer said of the championships – which will involve players from Class AAA, Class AA, Class A (July 9-11) and Division II (July 13-15) programs. “We’re trying to do what we can to help the kids.
“As far as (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) guidelines go, there are certain things we cannot do. We cannot wear school uniforms. We can’t be called ‘Hendersonville High School Commandos’. Basically you have to register your team as an independent team; that way it’s all good insurance-wise, as well. We’re doing everything we can to play for the kids, and at the same time be in line with TSSAA. They’ve told us the dos and don’ts we can and can’t do.”
Playing as the C-Town Soccer Club, coach Greg Szydlowski said 20 players will travel for the quarterfinal matchup in the Class AAA Flight 2 on July 9 against Ravenwood.
“We’re wearing our colors; we just had to buy new jerseys,” Szydlowski said. “We’ll be purple and black. We started practice Monday.”
Summit, meanwhile, will play in the Class AAA Flight 3 and open its eight-team bracket against Shelbyville on July 9.
In Class AAA, 24 teams were grouped based on seedings by the participating coaches. The championship flight will consist of teams from Station Camp, Collierville, Bearden, Farragut, Brentwood, Hendersonville, Houston and Franklin. In addition to Ravenwood and Columbia Central, Flight 2 will include teams from Overton, Smyrna, Science Hill, Bartlett, Dobyns-Bennett and Knoxville West. Flight 3 will include teams from Siegel, Warren County, Lenoir City, Soddy Daisy, Beech and Jefferson County along with the Spartans and Golden Eagles.
“Unfortunately, not everybody agreed with the rankings, but when do people agree with all the rankings – in any sport, not just soccer?” said Plummer. “There’s been some (seeding) proposals for the TSSAA in the past. I think a lot of coaches … would rather at the state tournament have a seeding process.
“It’ll at least be a good experiment.”
Among the C-Town players will be Lipscomb University signee Preston Price, who scored three goals in Columbia Central’s two victories this spring – giving him a career total of 87 — before the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of schools and school athletics statewide.
“We’re just trying to give these kids an opportunity,” said Szydlowski, whose Lions were coming off consecutive Class AAA state sectional appearances. “This is a special group. I’m sad for these seniors, sad for everybody. But this gives us an opportunity. After we play Ravenwood, we’ll play Overton or Smyrna, win or lose. It’s going to be a fun couple of days. The second flight is going to be just as difficult as the first.”
Participating teams in Class AA include Sevier County, South-Doyle, Loudon, Greeneville, Cumberland County, Fairview and Knoxville Central. In Class A, teams from Gatlinburg, LEAD Academy, Austin-East, Chattanooga Arts & Sciences, Madison Academic, Oneida, Merrol Hyde and Alcoa will compete. The Division II fields have yet to be completed.
Plummer said much of the planning of the event has been with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.
“They’re having other events already (at Rocky Top Sports World),” he said. “We’ve done all our homework. There’s been a committee that’s met – or Zoomed – quite often. We have a plan if we have to have zero fans, we have a plan if we can only have 50, but right now the fan thing is wide open. The only thing we’re doing right now is, you have to buy your tickets ahead of time (gofan.co/highschoolcup). We can skip one more phase of having to handle money, that interaction. We’re trying to think of everything possible to pull this off for the kids, but we all realize things can change overnight.
“One of the main organizers (Gatlinburg-Pittman coach Zach Schrandt) lives in that area. … He’s very much in tune to what’s going on there. Zach has really been the lead man on this. He presented this, did a lot of the homework. He deserves all the credit in the world for this.”
For more information on the championships, including brackets, visit thssca.net.
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.