The Chattanooga Christian soccer team was unable to repeat its district and region championships from a season ago.
The Chargers still have a chance to defend their state title, however.
The third-ranked Chargers scored in the second 10-minute overtime period on a header by Clark Marshall and won 2-1 over second-ranked East Hamilton on Saturday.
CCS's rough road back included two overtime losses to Notre Dame in the District 7-A/AA and Region 4 title matches, the second of which threw some of the Charger seniors for a loop. CCS coach Shawn Brower refused to let the team's spirits get down, though.
"Some of the guys were getting emotional after Thursday's loss," Brower said. "I told them to suppress those emotions -- that we weren't done -- and I continued to stress that we weren't done. We could reminisce and reflect on what could have been after the season, but we had to have the resolve to move on to the next one."
It took a game performance by the CCS defense, which spent most of the second half on its heels against constant pressure by the Hurricanes, who brought a 16-match win streak into the contest.
"We actually thought that we could play freely, that we were the underdog coming in," Brower said. "With the win streak, we thought they'd feel some pressure and that for once the pressure wasn't on us."
The Chargers (16-3-1) took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Taylor Black late in the first half, but Jose Orellana had the equalizer late in the second half, heading in a pass from Alex McCarney. The visitors had previously turned away about four or five East Hamilton opportunities right in front of the goal.
In overtime, the 6-foot-6 Marshall leaped high to head in a Matthew Johnson throw-in, and the Chargers held on to earn their return trip to the Spring Fling. The sophomore had scored the goal in their 1-0 regular-season victory over Notre Dame, as well as two game-winners in last season's state tournament.
"I thought our second half was great," East Hamilton coach John Millard said. "We dominated in the second half, but we were just unlucky because we had some great opportunities. We dominated the stat book -- just not the scoreboard."
The Hurricanes reached the state semifinals last season.
"I don't think you can evaluate a season on one game," Millard said. "We have a tough road to get there and will usually have to beat a CCS or Notre Dame to get to the state tournament.
"I still feel like we have the best guys in the state. It's just unfortunate that we won't be at the state tournament next week."