KINGSPORT, Tenn.—Oak Ridge saw its season end for the second straight year in the Tri-Cities, this time on the pitch at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett’s Indian Highland Park.
Last year, the Wildcats (14-9) fell 3-1 at Johnson City Science Hill, and they fell Saturday by the same result to the Indians (20-1-1), who advance for the first time in a quarter century to the TSSAA state tournament. Oak Ridge last made it to the state tournament in 2008.
“The match was not a piece of art at all,” Oak Ridge Coach Jeff Trombly said. “It was a pretty scrappy affair.”
Dobyns-Bennett was keen on possessing the ball and hoping for a defensive breakdown in its game plan.
“Their No. 11 shirt, Jose Rodriguez, is one heck of a ball player up top,” Dobyns-Bennett Coach Blake Rutherford said. “We had to make sure to take care of him. After that, I thought we had the opportunity to maintain the ball and really build some stuff.”
The tactic came to fruition in the 32nd minute and again two minutes into the second half with both Dobyns-Bennett connections coming via an assist from Luke Heard and a finish by Steven McKinney.
“Unfortunately, again we gave away a soft goal to start the game, and you can’t win championships with soft goals,” Trombly said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Oak Ridge gained a measure of momentum in the 51st minute when Indian keeper A.J. Robbins was called for interference and Wildcats senior Blake Clowers converted the penalty kick just inside the left post.
It was the first post-season goal allowed by Dobyns-Bennett, which entered with seven consecutive clean sheets to its credit and a scoreless streak that reached 655 minutes before Clowers’ tally.
The momentum for the Wildcats was short-lived, however, as 10 minutes later, Dobyns-Bennett’s Matt Diminick converted a header off a well-placed inlet from Jordan Broadwater and the Indians regained the two-goal advantage.
“Matt’s was the absolute punctuation mark,” said D-B’s Rutherford. “After that one, I thought that would do it.”
The third D-B tally was in fact the dagger, according to Trombly.
“That’s what it really boils down to,” Trombly said. “Their answer.”
The defeat ends the season but not the process for Oak Ridge, added Trombly.
“We continue and we go on, and next season starts now,” he said. “We get ready again.”
It’s the second year in a row that the Wildcats have made it to a Class AAA sectional, and both trips have been with Trombly, a second-year Oak Ridge coach. The sectionals, which follow regional championship games, determine which teams go to the state tournament. This year’s tournament starts in Murfreesboro this week.
In another East Tennessee sectional on Saturday, Bearden beat Sevier County 2-0 at Bearden to advance to the state soccer tournament.
Steve Wilmoth is vice president of media technology and publishing at TriCitiesSports.com in Kingsport.
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