KNOXVILLE—Oak Ridge finished as Region 2-AAA runner-up at Bearden on Thursday, and the Wildcats play Dobyns-Bennett in a sectional soccer game in Kingsport this afternoon (Saturday, May 21). The winner of that game will advance to the Class AAA state tournament in Murfreesboro next week.
The Wildcats (14-8) lost to the Bulldogs 4-1 at Bearden on Thursday. Oak Ridge senior goalkeeper Joel Turner was busy the entire game, trying to keep a steady stream of Bearden shots out of the net. The Bulldogs finished with 31 shots, or about one shot every 2.5 minutes. Eighteen of those shots were on goal.
Bearden (19-3) scored in quick back-to-back goals less than three minutes apart late in the first half and about 30 seconds apart late in the second.
Oak Ridge scored its only goal with 1:14 remaining on a penalty kick by senior defender Blake Clowers.
Bearden seniors Spencer Smiley and Gabe Alvarez had two goals each for the Bulldogs.
Smiley scored first with about seven minutes left in the first half on a ground ball that rolled into the right side of the net past Oak Ridge senior goalkeeper Joel Turner, who came out to try to make the stop. Bearden senior Jameson Elmore got the assist.
The Bulldogs scored again with just under five minutes left in the half off of a corner kick by senior Kelvin Garcia that was headed by junior Will Lewis to Alvarez, who headed it into the net.
The Wildcats were outshot 14-3 in the first half.
In the second half, Oak Ridge moved two players up front, where senior Matt Warmbrod, who played defense in the first half, joined senior Jose Rodriguez. Junior Stefan Mortl came in at defense in the second half.
In the first half, Oak Ridge Coach Jeff Trombly said, “we were letting them attack us.”
The Wildcats had twice as many shots in the second half (six) as they did in the first (three). They finished with nine shots total and four on goal, or roughly a quarter of what the Bulldogs had.
Alvarez scored again with just under eight minutes left in the second half, shooting a penalty kick just to the right of a diving Turner.
Smiley followed that up by beating an Oak Ridge defender and lofting a shot into the right side of the net with an assist from Lewis.
The Wildcats face Dobyns-Bennett (19-1-1), the Region 1-AAA champion, at 3 p.m. today (Saturday, May 21) in Kingsport in upper East Tennessee.
It’s the second year in a row that Oak Ridge has made it to a sectional game and the second time the Wildcats have made it to a sectional under Trombly, a second-year coach. Last year’s sectional game at Science Hill was the first for the Oak Ridge boys soccer team since 2008.
“We’re in the middle of a process of turning this program around,” Trombly said.
Oak Ridge also lost to Bearden 4-1 on March 29, during the regular season.
Bearden Coach Ryan Radcliffe said the Bulldogs knew that winning against Oak Ridge during the Region 2-AAA championship game on Thursday was “going to be a matter of breaking down the wall back there.”
Alvarez is the leading scorer for Bearden, Radcliffe said, with a total of 26 goals after Thursday’s game. Garcia has 23, and Smiley has 11 goals and 10 assists on the season.
Last year, Bearden was knocked out of the playoffs by Hardin Valley in the second round of the district tournament. Radcliffe thinks the Bulldogs have “all the pieces this” year and more talent than the 2006 state championship team.
In another sectional game today, Bearden will play Sevier County, the Region 1-AAA runner-up, at home at 7 p.m.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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