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Ad soccer survives OR, gets region revenge vs. BHS; on to defend state

Austin Rhodes' overtime goal that beat the buzzer by one second and Tony Milazzo's clutch saves that earned post-game cheers from his teammates — was this the spark that lit the fire of two-time defending state soccer champion Farragut as they play in Memphis this week? That's what it took for the Soccer Ads to keep its season alive against Oak Ridge in the Region 2-AAA semifinals, winning a 2-1 overtime thriller Tuesday, May 18, when Rhodes scored on a deflected corner kick just before the first 10 minute OT buzzer sounded.

"I request we give a hand to Tony, he saved our tails," FHS head coach Wallie Culbreth told his team in reference to goalkeeper Milazzo's play, which came despite battling a groin injury according to Culbreth.

Then came revenge against archrival Bearden in the region finals at BHS Thursday, May 20, sparked by goals from Scott Kensell and Jake Russell in a spirited 2-1 victory.

The final obstacle to Memphis and the Soccer Ads attempt to win its third consecutive Class AAA state title was Morristown West in Saturday's sectional in Farragut Stadium. Hardly an obstacle, as FHS rolled 7-0 in the May 21 thrashing.

The Ads took a 18-6-2 record into first-round play Wednesday, May 26, against No. 2-state-ranked Brentwood (after press deadline). "Everybody wrote us off at the beginning of the year, and we're going back, we're one of the top eight teams in the state, and that says a lot about the character of these kids because they were determined not to let anyone overlook 'em,” Culbreth said.

A win puts No. 11 ranked FHS in the semis vs. the Blackman-Germantown winner at 7:30 p.m. EDT (today) Thursday.

Given the program's stature as defending national champion, how much pressure is on FHS’s shoulders? "I don't think it's going to put on us as (much) pressure as it'll put on our opponents," Culbreth said.

The Class AAA state title game is at 6 p.m. EDT, Saturday at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex.


"... We were the better team tonight ... These boys really came to play big,” Culbreth said. “I can't say enough about Kirk Ruoff, he's just a rah, rah guy ...." Senior Steven Macht "did a great job."

Senior Brad Pease said, "It's just a great thing to come out and beat them on their home field. We wanted to come out so bad and just give it back to 'em.”

About beating Bearden in the post-season, Kirk Ruoff said, "It's very special, this is a very big rivalry ... we all wanted it tonight, we all came together as a team."

BHS head coach Eric Turner said, "they came out and they clearly were the better team today, they came out and physically established the game ...."

Individually, "I thought Brandon Wyrick had a great game, and Rico Carter did a great job up top," Turner said. "He (Carter) created a lot of opportunities, but we didn't finish ...."

Kensell’s shot tap-in goal after a deflect with 24:42 left in the first half was followed by BHS’s Khader Hamdallah, whose 30-yard floating direct kick beat Milazzo and tied the game with 12:30 left in the first half. Russell’s goal, off a free kick, came two minutes into the second half.

Culbreth praised Rhodes "for coming on in the second half and picking it up and playing aggressive, and Ben Lawson and Matt Dakin did a great job, and Brad Pease, he creates havoc wherever he goes. That's what I move him around. He did that tonight, he created havoc."


Kensell put FHS up 1-0 less than one minute into the second half before No. 4 state-ranked ORHS tied it two minutes later.

Senior All-state midfielder Scott Kensell said about Milazzo, "... Several times the ball was coming down, one-on-one with Tony, and Tony stepped up big and saved the game several times."

In addition to Milazzo, Ruoff and Lawson, Culbreth praised his substitutes who filled in for sick and injured players.


"Ben Lawson played fantastic, and Ben Backstrom, they played really, really big in this game," Culbreth said.

Backstrom led with two goals, followed by Pease, Rhodes (off a crossing pass from Russell), Jake Holt, Macht and Josh Riner.


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