South-Doyle edges Greeneville, wins state title

By Mark Nagi

The South-Doyle Cherokees came to Murfreesboro on a quest to make history. The Cherokees were gunning for their first state championship in boys’ soccer, and what would be only their second state title in a boys’ sport in the history of their school.

Thanks to a gutsy performance from sophomore Jude Straussfogel, the Cherokees beat perennial Class AA powerhouse Greeneville 2-1 to win the state championship on Friday, May 24 at the Richard Seigel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.

“South Knoxville, we are such a close community,” said South-Doyle head coach Samuel Mitchell. “Our pregame speech said that this community is behind you. Let’s go win it for them.”

Despite only making their third trip to state and never winning a tournament game at this level previously, the Cherokees made the trip west with all sorts of confidence after winning the Region 3-AA title. Once in Murfreesboro, they beat Cocke County 5-0 in the quarterfinals. Then came a 1-0 win over Station Camp in the semifinals. The Bison were the number one ranked team in the state in Class AA in the semifinals.

They were riding a five-game win streak with five straight clean sheets. But the championship game could not have started any worse for South-Doyle.  Greene Devils midfielder David Fisher had a free kick that bounced in the box and found its way onto the foot of Brody Inscore, who pushed the ball into the far corner, giving Greeneville a 1-0 lead only 46 seconds into the game.

For most of the opening 40 minutes, South-Doyle was on its heels, but Jonah Mitchell made some key saves for the Cherokees to keep this a 1-0 game at intermission.

“We couldn’t get the ball on the ground. We were playing kickball. We were doing anything but playing soccer,” said Mitchell. “At halftime, we literally said get the ball on the ground and play our game. When you get the ball to the wide areas, we believed we could beat their outside backs.”

In that second half, things turned around in a big way. The Cherokees’ best players began to find some space to make plays.  Junior Anestis Tiriakidis, who led South-Doyle with 28 goals and 13 assists this season, broke free into the Greeneville box, slipped a pass to a wide-open Jude Straussfogel, who then scored the game-tying goal with 18:49 to go.

A few minutes later a Cherokees player was taken down at the top of the box and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. Greeneville supporters pleaded their case that the foul occurred outside the box, but to no avail.

Straussfogel, who was banged up in the win over Station Camp and questionable to even play in this game, stepped to the spot and beat Greeneville keeper Tanner Myers, putting South-Doyle in front 2-1.

“Scored a brace in a state final! After (Greeneville) scored that first goal he came up to me and said, ‘I’m playing.’ He comes in and scores an incredible goal. And he’s been our PK taker all year and I was about to sub him.  You talk about incredible.  That’s guts. That’s grit.”

The Cherokees’ defense held off Greeneville for the final 12 minutes, and the celebration began as the South-Doyle sideline charged the field.

“I think one thing the state of Tennessee has respected about us is that we are in the game for 80 minutes no matter what,” said Mitchell.

South-Doyle finished their championship season at 20-3-2.