‘Confident’ BHS girls eye state title run

KNOXVILLE — Hungry for a return trip to Murfreesboro and the Class AAA state tourney after last season’s substate loss to Maryville, Bearden found a new level of confidence last week.

Which is a scary thought, since head coach Ryan Radcliffe’s Lady Bulldogs only suffered one loss, and no ties, the entire regular season and post-season leading up to another win-or-go-home substate battle, this time against rival Farrgut at BHS’s Turner-Allender Field Saturday, Oct. 24.

“We came into this like really confident, which I think is a good thing because before now, we weren’t as confident as we should be,” said sophomore Brinley Murphy, who scored her 20th goal of the season, a header, on “a great cross from Janie” Lewis to help earn a 3-1 win against the Lady Ads, who finish 13-6-3.

“I think that after winning (4-1 in the Region 1-AAA semifinals against) Science Hill, that was a big game, that really got us prepared for this game,” Murphy added.

Bearden improved to 20-1. According to BHS statistics, the Lady Bulldogs finished with a 7-2 edge in shots-on-goal. Total shots favored Bearden 18-5.

With the Lady Bulldogs breaking on top 1-0 in the seventh minute, “It’s what we’ve been trying to do this whole season: we try to set the tone early,” said Lewis, a senior, who scored from about 12 yards out on a nice pass from senior forward Zneyah McLaughlin. “She did an excellent job. She got the ball and found me.”

“I’m just glad to have a bunch of teammates that are willing to do whatever it takes and are willing to work their butts off,” McLaughlin said.

About some of her team’s top qualities, McLaughlin said, “I think it’s our intensity and our willingness to work hard and work for each other.”

Junior Harlie Horward’s crossing pass to freshman Alivia Stott, who scored from about 10 yards out, put Bearden up 3-1 in the 66th minute.

“It feels great, I’m so excited to go to state,” Howard said.

The bottom line: “Getting to state, you have to put in the work. And we’ve put in the work this year, and we’re ready to go all the way,” Lewis said.

Praising his opponent, “That’s not the same Farragut team we played earlier (in the regular season),” BHS head coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “They changed styles, and I thought they were very solid defensively.

“Honestly, I thought they won the physical battle,” the coach added about FHS. “We’ve very been successful this year being the more physical team.

“But I thought they took it to us … which was nerve-wracking there, and we kind of had to make some adjustments at halftime to get through the second half and get our forwards more involved,” he added.

Especially in the second half the forwards kind of came alive a little bit more.”

The Lady Bulldogs are making their fourth trip to state under Radcliffe, who is finishing his seventh season as Bearden girls head coach.

“I’ve never been to a (state) championship (game) with the girls,” the BHS coach said.

Less than a minute after Bearden went up 2-0, the Lady Ads drew a penalty in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick. Lexi Foley, standout junior forward, converted.

About the FHS 2020 season, “This is like a comeback season for us,” Foley said. “… Our seniors were the best seniors we could have asked for, their leadership was amazing.”

About playing more aggressively, FHS head coach Kristen Lyons said, “I thought our midfield helped with that in winning more balls versus the first time we played them.”

Individually, “Overall in the last few games Shayne King has played fantastic,” Lyons said about his senior center-fullback.

“Our entire back line in these last two games (including a 1-0 loss at Maryville in the Region 2-AAA title game), has played very, very well,” she added.

“They have no fear against top players.”

As for all her seniors, “They have basically set the new identity and culture for this team,” Lyons said. “They trusted me from the get-go, which is really hard to do” as a first-year head coach “… and basically pushed everyone around them to a higher standard level.”

The bottom line for 2021: “watch out for next year,” Lyons said.