KNOXVILLE — Ryan Radcliffe isn’t the easiest soccer coach to please, but the Bearden High School head coach didn’t have too many complaints Friday night, March 29, after his team earned a hard-fought victory over Maryville at BHS's Turner-Allender Field.
He also tipped his hat to the Rebels and their longtime head coach Steve Feather.
“I’ve never seen a Steve-coached team that didn’t come here and battle,” Radcliffe said after his Bulldogs had to gut out a 1-0 victory over Maryville before a packed and spirited house. “He does a good job with them. He has a lot of new faces, but it was the same thing as always when you play Maryville.
“It’s the same thing. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how they come in here playing," he added. "When you play Steve’s teams, they always come in here and they battle. They play hard.”
It was the third victory of the week for the Bulldogs (5-1), who routed Knoxville Central 9-2 at Dan Y. Boring Stadium in Fountain City on Thursday, March 28, after shutting out Hardin Valley Academy 8-0 in the friendly confines Tuesday, March 26.
Bearden, which outshot the Rebels 18-5 and managed to get six of those scoring chances on frame, might’ve been at home late last week. But it certainly didn’t seem that way for Radcliffe at times.
The Bulldogs had already played Westminster High in Atlanta, and that’s the No. 2 team in the nation, plus defending Tennessee Class A state champion Gatlinburg-Pittman, and Bastavia (another strong side from outside the Volunteer State.
But Friday’s match posed some unique challenges.
Despite being at home, “This is really the first time that we’ve played in front of a hostile crowd in a hostile environment,” Radcliffe said. “We were at home but you saw how full the Maryville stands were.
“We played pretty well against a good, team but I just wish we’d made a few more of those shots — but I’ll take the win.”
Bearden only tallied once on this night, but it was enough.
The Bulldogs scored the lone goal of the match when Everett Hauser booted a long free kick just inside the BHS third of the field. The ball went just over the goal box and Collin Lewis got the ball to Caleb Wilkins, who put it past Maryville goalkeeper Judson Lindsey and into the back of the Rebels’ net.
“It was off a free kick, and Collin went up and got it and he got it to me and I got it in the goal,” Wilkins said of his marker.
Wilkins, a two-sport standout for the Bulldogs who recently signed to play football at Lindsey Wilson College, said he also expected a battle when the Rebels (3-3) came calling.
“Coach (Radcliffe) told us that no matter how they were playing coming in or how many new players they had, that they were going to be tough and play hard.
“And they did.”
For his part, Feather didn’t have many gripes, despite seeing his squad get one shot on frame against Bearden netminders Holden Giesecke and Jonathan Diaz.
“Bearden is probably one of the top three teams in the state and they didn’t do anything to show me anything different tonight,” Feather said. “They have 13 seniors and I think they start nine of them, and we only have a few.
“They’re a good team and I think we showed that we were pretty good too.”
For Bearden, it was Diaz (a sophomore) that stopped the Rebels’ best scoring chance.
“That was a big save by Jonny Diaz there in the second half,” Radcliffe said.