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State champs

The dream goal for his “dream school” to win a state championship.

Andrew Moser, a junior transfer from Seymour who had to sit out most of the 2007 season, may have saved Farragut from an awful soccer nightmare. Just when momentum had swung Bearden’s way late — two goals in the final 15 minutes to tie the Class AAA state title game plus the Admirals losing standout forward Ben Backstrom to double yellow cards — Moser nailed the winner near the end.

His free kick from just beyond the box with 1:58 to play was almost perfectly placed in the upper right corner of the net, giving the Admirals a dramatic 5-4 state title win against its archrivals, the defending state champions.

“I knew, with only three minutes left in the game, with us playing a man down, we needed to put something in quick,” Moser said. “This is only my third or fourth game for the team this season. That was my first goal for Farragut.

“Ben, the guy that got a red card, he’s usually the one to take it,” Moser added.

“That’s one shot I go practice a lot. It’s usually not a shot you’ll get to make in a game. I guess I came on the lucky side of that one. It’s a good feeling.”

As for why he transferred to Farragut, “A lot of the club players I play with go to Farragut,” Moser said. “I wanted to go to a bigger school, and Farragut was always a dream school of mine.”

About Moser’s goal, “the keeper ain’t going to get that — that’s just a once-in-a-lifetime goal,” BHS head coach Eric Turner said.

But in a wild, high scoring, back-and-forth showdown of rivals on the biggest stage, other Admirals emerged at a critical juncture in the game.

Memories of a special young lady emerged long before taking the field, helping motivate the Admiral express to the state crown (See related story on page 16).

“This will probably be the greatest game I’ve coached, though, because we had an agenda and the boys lived up to their billing. It was a great win,” FHS head coach Wallie Culbreth said. “This was probably as close a team as I’ve ever coached, relationship-wise, they all held each other accountable.”

Down 2-1 with under 25 minutes left in the second half, “We knew we could come back on ’em at any time, and we talked about that over and over, that unless they were three goals ahead of us they couldn’t hold us down,” Culbreth said.

Backstrom’s goal from 10 yards out, fed by standout senior Jake Russell, tied the game 2-2 with 23:37 left. It began the Admiral surge.

Just 29 seconds later, Brandon Cook’s rebound shot after an attempt hit the right post gave FHS its first lead, 3-2.

“I was dead tired the whole time, but every time we scored a goal it was like refilling my energy completely. … The energy level was amazing out there, Cook said. “I knew the whole time we were going to win.”

Cook described the game as “cut-throat, rough.”

The Admirals appeared to have sealed the deal after Drew Hemeter’s long diagonal pass found Robert Fisher, who’s perfectly timed header from 10 yards out on the right side made it 4-2 with 16:31 to play.

“Fisher had that great header to put us up by two, but Bearden just kept coming back,” Cook said.

Turner said the three-goal FHS barrage “really kind of devastated us.”

But the defending state champion SoccerDawgs (final 25-3-0 record) struck back within 80 seconds. “Our guys battled back, most teams would have folded and that would have been that,” Turner said. “The game would have ended four-two.”

After a mis-played ball in front of the net, Bulldog Aaron Schoenfeld tapped in the goal cutting the FHS lead to 4-3 at the 15:11 mark. Ryan Radcliffe assisted.

Then came the two plays that could have sunk the Admirals. After Backstrom’s foul and red card, Alex Wilkerson’s free kick from about 45 yards out landed and got loose deep into the box. SoccerDawg forward Ryan Campbell found it and punched home the tying goal with just 3:36 left.

“Sometimes God is just looking out for you,” Backstrom said. “I got a double-yellow for just losing my emotions.”

Turner said, “We really thought we were getting ready for overtime.”

As for Culbreth, “I’m thinking, ‘what in the world?’ That worried me a little bit, but I knew I had the horses to come back,” the coach said. “Bearden’s a great team. … Eric Turner’s a great coach, he did a great job of preparing. … It was a chess match all the way through.”

Culbreth claims his third state championship ring (2003, 2004) in six seasons as FHS head coach (2003, 2004).

Farragut ends with a 19-3-5 record.

Individually, “I always thought without Nic [Paolucci] we couldn’t win a state championship,” the FHS skipper said about his senior sweeper overcoming injuries. “And Jake Russell played well. And Ben Backstrom was all over the field.”

Also included was Mitchell Ishmael. “I played him all over the field, and he’s just a leader and he took over a lot of things,” Culbreth said. “He just played like a state champion wherever we put Mitchell Ishmael.”

Russell, who scored Farragut’s first goal on a header from about eight yards out, said, “It’s amazing, I can’t even express the feelings I’m feeling right now. One time in life this happens to you. This is glorious, this is awesome.”

Any panic at 4-4? “There was a little, but we came to do what we had to do,” Russell said.

Paolucci said, “I guess we just had God looking down on us today. We knew we were going to win, so we just tried our hardest and got the result that we wanted.

“Everything looked like it was going downhill, but we just picked it up,” Paolucci added about the late BHS surge. “Andrew Moser hit a ridiculous shot to help us win the game.”

As for beating its archrival on the big stage, “Just because it’s Bearden makes it that much better. If we had lost, the worst thing wouldn’t have been losing the championship. It would have been losing to Bearden. It was just awesome beating Bearden for the finals.”

The SoccerDawgs had won two out of the previous three games, including a 4-1 drubbing of FHS at Bill Clabo Field for the Region 2-AAA crown.

Fisher said, “I’m very excited that we got to play Bearden. This is my last official soccer game, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

As an Admiral football placekicker last fall, Fisher had a last-second game-tying field goal against William Blount in a game FHS eventually won in overtime.

“This doesn’t even compare to William Blount, this is ten times better than William Blount,” Fisher said. “I’ve wanted to win state my entire life, I’ve never won state in any sport. And now it’s happened. And I couldn’t be happier.

“This is the greatest moment in my life, probably.”

Bearden junior standout Tom Webster began the scoring with a laser shot into the upper right part of the net from about 25 yards out in the seventh minute.

After a second BHS goal was disallowed due to offsides, Farragut tied the game with Backstrom’s 10-yard header off a diagonal feed from Jake Holt 35 yards out with 13:09 left in the half.

Nathan Zivi pounced on a loose ball near the front of the net and gave the SoccerDawgs a 2-1 lead with 3:59 left in the half.

Farragut out-shot Bearden 15-6.


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