Absent branding, coaches, it’s FHS vs. Dawgs in July soccer tourney

GATLINBURG — When the COVID-19 pandemic forced a premature end to the 2020 high school boys soccer season in mid-March, it left a few teams feeling like they had some unfinished business.

Many teams will get a chance to put a finish on a campaign halted after just a handful of games. Well, sort of.

Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association has devised an alternative state championship tournament, and teams from all classifications can compete.

In the first round of the Division I Class AAA Tournament, Farragut and Bearden will re-kindle their longstanding rivalry — in a way.

The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association is not sanctioning the event, so teams are independent and playing as club teams. They are not permitted to use school names or wear school uniforms. And coaches in the Knox County Schools system will not be permitted to coach their teams due to a KCS rule prohibiting high school coaches from coaching their players on club squads.

So, Farragut head coach Ray Dover and Bearden head man Ryan Radcliffe, who guided the Bulldogs to the TSSAA Class AAA state championship in 2019, won’t be on the bench when the fourth-seeded Bulldogs FC tangles with No. 5 Admirals FC beginning at 3 p.m., Thursday, July 9, at Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg. The two West Knox County rivals are in the Championship Flight of the Class AAA Tournament. Each side is guaranteed three matches in the tournament.

“This basically is a club tournament and I won’t be able to coach my team, and I hate that, but it is what it is,” Dover said. “Knox County has a rule that says that we can’t coach a club team with our players on it.

“But I think it will be a great tournament and it will be fun for the guys,” he added. “We have some parents with coaching experience and they’re willing to coach our guys.”

“We left it up to the kids, if they wanted to do this, and they did,” Radcliffe said. “Each player is getting two passes because they are limiting the number of people who can go up there and watch. If I can get a ticket, I might go watch if I’m not busy with my girls team. I can’t be on the sideline.

“I didn’t get to watch my team play much this year.”

Other teams in the Championship Flight include Bison FC (Station Camp), Dragons TTB (Collierville), Bruins (Brentwood), Commandos (Hendersonville), Mustangs (Germantown Houston) and Rebels (Franklin).