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Bulldogs capture third state AAA soccer title


MURFREESBORO — As Bearden SoccerDawg goalkeeper Bryan Walker was getting ready to exorcise some state tournament demons, looking confident with a smile on his face, head coach Eric Turner was aware of the irony surrounding Walker and the Hendersonville team he was getting ready to face in a heart-stopping penalty-kick showdown.

It was Walker versus the HHS Commandos’ best legs in a penalty-kick shootout for the Class AAA state championship Saturday, May 27, after 110 minutes of scoreless play.

Although Walker put a lot of blame on himself after allowing a soft goal in last season’s 2-1 loss to the Commandos in the 2005 state semifinals, Hendersonville went on to lose to Brentwood in the championship game.

On penalty kicks.

“You could tell they were probably a little more uptight than we were because this is where they lost last year,” Turner said moments after Walker held Hendersonville to only a pair of conversions while the SoccerDawgs nailed every try in a 4-2 Bearden shootout win for its third state title in six seasons.

About getting an edge on guessing to the right and stopping the shot of Hendersonville’s first penalty kick, taken by senior Mark Griffin, Walker said he “pretty much” read which was Griffin was going. “I can kinda tell by the way they line up on the ball.”

Saying he and his teammates were “joking around ... messing around” when Walker said he hoped the game would be decided by penalty-kicks “so I can win it all for us” the night before, both Walker and coach Turner took the words to heart with smiles on their faces just before Walker’s big moment came to life.

“We came in [prior to the start of penalty kicks] and coach was like, ‘you called it last night, you better win it for us,” Walker said. “I did.”

Turner added, “That’s what Bryan wanted. Bryan got it done. ... Bryan Walker had a great game.”

Senior Jay Lutz said Walker “wanted a shootout last night, and he stepped up big-time for us.”

Bearden’s run toward the state championship (18-5-3 record) began in Murfreesboro with a surprising 3-0 upset win against previously unbeaten defending state champ Brentwood (21-1-1 final record) in the opening round May 24, a win Turner said was “definitely” the program’s biggest since winning national and state titles in 2002.

“When you’re coming in against the quality of a nationally-ranked team that hasn’t lost all year, and defending state champions, and to come in and beat them three-O, it’s a great win,” said Turner, handing out special praise to the play of Brandon Wyrick for a “great game,” along with defenders Phillip Andreae, Trevor Cook and Walker.

That was followed by a 2-1 overtime win against Ridgeway in the semifinals Thursday, May 24. More on those games later in this story.

BHS 1 HENDERSONVILLE 0

Turner said he eagerly awaited a show of hands for SoccerDawgs willing to take penalty kicks prior to the shootout.

“We get ’em together and say, ‘who wants to take ‘’em?’ And that’s it,” Turner said. “We only want people who are confident to take it, you’ve got about five hands. ... Ryan [Radcliffe] wanted to go first, and Jay Lutz wanted to go second, we just went right down the line.”

After Radcliffe slid his shot just inside the right post, Lutz and fellow senior Rico Carter gave Bearden a 3-1 lead.

After an HHS conversion, it all came down to sophomore Tom Webster. Webster easily beat Commando goalie Jordan Moore and the Maroon Madness celebration started.

As for Lutz, “Coach Turner asked who wanted to take p-ks, and I raised my hand because I felt confident I could make one. I didn’t even look at the keeper. I just tried to hit it solid,” the senior said.

“We came awfully close our freshman year, junior year, and finally got it,” Lutz added about the state title. “It’s very emotional, I still can’t grasp what it feels like.

“We gave a great effort as a team.”

In addition to Walker, “The main ones are our defense,” Turner said in dishing out title game credit. “Phillip Andreae in the back, Jay Lutz, Brandon Wyrick, Khader Hamdallah, Trevor Cook, those guys really just took it home. Defense wins championships and these guys proved it today.”

Although saying his BHS seniors hadn’t won a state championship on any level until Saturday, Turner added, “They’ve carried on a tradition, a great way to go out your senior year.”

When asked if Hendersonville outplayed his SoccerDawgs in the first half, “I think they did,” Turner said, as the Commandos out-shot BHS 12-7 for the game. “They came out and they had a great game plan. ... Our defense didn’t break, they [Hendersonville] were ready for it.”

But it was Bearden that probably had the game’s best two chances to score, the first coming when Carter barely missed high on an open header from about eight yards out following a crossing pass from Webster with 30:32 left in the second half. Three minutes later, Nathan Zivi hit the crossbar from 10 yards out following another Webster pass.

“So once we got halfway through the second half, it was what it was, it was going to take a someone’s great shot or a fluke to untie that game,” Turner added. “Otherwise, we were heading the way we were going, because neither of us were going to blink and risk throwing someone up in the attack.”

As for turning its season around after finishing third in the District 4-AAA regular season, “We really found our niche probably about a month, month-and-a-half ago, and since then they’ve just been playing awesome,” Turner said. “They’ve been refusing to lose. We’ve been in so many tight games all year. ... We’ve played the schedule, we’ve played everyone we’ve needed to play.

“Great resiliency, they played real hard the last month-and-a-half,” Turner added. “They got hot at the right time. ... They got it done.”

However, Turner’s eventual state champs needed a wake-up call. Or wake-up wardrobe.

“For two weeks they lost their uniforms, they weren’t even allowed to play in their uniforms for two months because they weren’t representing Bearden and they weren’t representing everything we strive for over the years. And then it just clicked.”

Hamdallah, a senior, said he was “relieved,” adding, “It feels great finally getting here and winning it. I mean, it was a nail-biter, but we pulled it out.”

Senior Andrew Hinkle said, “We came so close our freshman year, and to finally win it our senior year, it just means everything.”

Along with his fellow BHS seniors, “We’ve had a great four years together,” Hinkle added. “We’ve become really close. We’ve become really good friends, they’ve just been the best friends I’ve ever had.”

Andreae, BHS Class of 2006 valedictorian, said, “We just had to hold it down in the back, we ground it out.”

Carter began a chant of, “It’s great to be a Bearden Bulldog.”

Walker summed it all up. “Everyone on the team was dead tired, but they just pulled in out and did what they needed to do to win.”

BHS 3 BRENTWOOD 0

Bearden’s defense came up big, allowing the defending champs and No.1-ranked Bruins only five shots on goal. The SoccerDawgs had eight.

Webster put BHS ahead in the 12th minute on a goal assisted by Brandon Wyrick. In the 53rd minute, Scott Heminway was credited with a goal after a Brentwood player inadvertently headed in his throw-in.

Carter put the icing on the cake with a breakaway goal, beating the charging goalkeeper in the 74th minute.

BHS 2 RIDGEWAY 1

Finishing with a 24-19 advantage on shots-on-goal but falling behind 1-0 less than two minutes into the game, Bearden tied it with less than 12 minutes to play when Andreae converted unassisted.

Radcliffe put the SoccerDawgs ahead to stay with a goal seconds into the first 10-minute overtime.

































 

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