KNOXVILLE — When Bearden High School’s boys soccer team begins its 2018 season, it will take a voyage into unknown territory.
For starters, the Bulldogs will be in a new district. Re-alignment has moved both Bearden and West High out of their longtime home in District 4-AAA and into District 2-AAA.
Fourth-year head coach Ryan Radcliffe, who guided the Bulldogs to the 2016 Class AAA State Championship, said the new district poses its own set of unique challenges.
“We’ll still play Farragut, Hardin Valley and Maryville because we want to play the best teams and the toughest schedule we can,” said Radcliffe, who also won a state title as a player with Bearden.
“Now, we’re going to have to travel an hour-and-a-half to Morristown or Jefferson County. And we’re going to be the favorite and every district game that we play.”
Adding to the challenge for the Bulldogs is the fact there will be plenty of new faces on the varsity squad.
The Bulldogs, who went 11-5-1 in 2017, will have plenty of depth, but the high level of talent is a bit tempered because several of the players on the squad lack varsity experience and are unproven.
“Our whole lineup is basically newcomers. We’ll have a lot of new faces on the varsity,” Radcliffe said. “We still have some guys that were involved with our state championship team.
“We’re not young as far as age but we have a lot of juniors and seniors who haven’t had a lot of varsity playing time,” he added. “But there are a lot of new faces, so it’s going to be an intriguing year. These guys have been waiting in the wings. Now, it’s their time to step up.”
Key players for the Bulldogs include: Caleb Wilkins (junior, forward); Andrew Wilkins (senior, goalkeeper); Mitchell Mazrimas (senior, defender); Finn Harris (junior, midfielder); Tyler Seaman (junior, midfielder); Collin Lewis (junior, midfielder); Trey Kelly (junior, defender); Ty Trikones (senior, defender); Tanner Whited (junior, defender); Holden Giesecke (sophomore, goalkeeper); Andrew Tezak (senior, goalkeeper) and Jonathan Diaz (freshman, goalkeeper).
Bearden has overall depth but the Bulldogs are especially deep at goalkeeper. They have four keepers on the preseason varsity roster.
Andrew Wilkins got the majority of the playing time in 2017. Tezak is on the roster along with Giesecke, another returner. Diaz enters the program.