NEWPORT—The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, including those involved in the high school athletics realm.

Last season, the Cocke County boy’s soccer team was slated for a fresh start, but due to the pandemic the season was cancelled.

“Last year I had two seniors on the team.” Coach Mitzy Hall said. “This year I’m bringing six seniors out on the field and I couldn’t imagine having another season cut short.”

With last year taken from them, all spring sports programs are cherishing the chance to return to play in 2021. The Fighting Cocks’ soccer team is on the early track to make the most of it, too.

After a tough loss on the road to Daniel Boone, the Big Red hosted their first home game of the season against the Cumberland Gap Panthers.

Cocke County’s second half defensive stand powered them past the Panthers, 2-1, on Tuesday night.

Cumberland Gap struck first scoring within the first seven minutes of the first half.

The Panthers’ senior, Jon Graves, scored the only goal for Cumberland Gap in the loss.

Cocke County (1-1) had multiple opportunities in the opening half to score but came up short, missing wide left. As the game aged, the Panthers’ defense forced the Big Red to play more conservatively.

Neither team could find an edge on one another.

Cocke County had one sliver of momentum, but the Panthers stole it right back.

CCHS goal keeper, Dalton Wilburn, had Cumberland Gap’s number all match. Despite giving up the early score, Wilburn had a few key saves to help give his team opportunities.

Trailing 1-0 at the half., Hall rallied her team after a rough first half defensively.

“I told the guys at the half, to get their head in the game and stop backing up.” Hall said. “Once they did that they stepped up huge for us in the second half.

Cocke County finally broke the scoreless drought in the 46th minute of the match.

Jose Martinez added the first goal for Cocke County at home to even the match out at 1-all.

Cumberland Gap struggled to get anything to fall in the net despite taking the most shots in the final half of play.

In the 55th minute of play, Caleb Chandler broke the tie and gave the Big Red a 2-1 lead over the Panthers.

With the lead, Cocke County had several opportunities to extend its advantage but could not find the inside of the goal.

“I try to keep the guys in the mindset of it’s not always about scoring.” Hall said. “It’s more than just scoring, it’s about passing and getting the open looks. Once we get those looks, those shots will fall in for us.”

Cocke County’s second half surge lifted them past the Cumberland Gap Panthers, 2-1, giving the Fighting Cocks their first win of the season.

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