FLOWERY BRANCH — Something had to give for both the White County and Cherokee Bluff girls soccer teams on Friday in their Region 7-3A battle for first place.
The Class 3A No. 8-ranked Lady Bears had not allowed a goal over their last six games. The second-ranked Lady Warriors had not been scored on in Region 7-3A play over the first third of the season. Both shutout streaks ended, however, as Cherokee Bluff freshman center striker Kaitlin Cook proved to be the offensive difference.
Cook bullied her way through and broke down the White County defense much of the game scoring one goal and generated a penalty kick opportunity to help lead the Lady Bears to a 3-1 victory at Bears Stadium.
Bluff coach Calvin Cook said his defense once again was the catalyst.
“They played great and have been for the last month or so,” Cook said. “Our forwards also really stepped up and were able to get some good chances.”
With the win, Cherokee Bluff (7-2, 4-0 Region 7-3A) takes over sole possession of first place in the region at more than the halfway point.
“It’s good but we still have some tough matches ahead,” Cook said. “This was the first match we had our entire roster together. We felt coming into the year that we had talent and our expectations were to be where we are right now.”
The first half was a physical affair. Both offenses used deep passes to try and break down the defenses but tough stands around the box by the back lines limited the opportunities.
White County (8-3, 2-1 Region 7-3A) had several opportunities early inside the box but Fowler handled each chance. Bluff also had several charges with Kaitlin Cook but the Lady Warriors defenders allowed her just one solid chance.
However, a long ball to Cook in the 35th minute resulted in the lone goal of the half. Cook dribbled past a pair of White County defenders but was hauled down inside the box as she was winding up for a shot.
Anna Gessner took the penalty kick and beat White County keeper Naomi Roberts on the low right side for a 1-0 lead.
The Bluff offense ramped things up in the opening minutes of the second half getting two near-goals before Cook scored to make it 2-0 with 35:22 left after settling a long pass and beating Roberts with a 15-yard blast.
Eight minutes later Eva Martin, off a corner pass from Amelia Dovie, pushed the lead to 3-0.
White County scored four minutes later on a blast from Hazen Ramey to cut it to 3-1. The Lady Warriors continued to press the attack over the final 20 minutes generating three corners and four scoring chances. But Fowler stood firm to help seal the win.
“I thought (keeper) Avery (Fowler) was very good and handled some tough chances in the last 20 minutes,” Cook said.
Cherokee Bluff next will play host to Gilmer on Wednesday in another region showdown.
White County will play host to West Hall on Tuesday in another region showdown.