Last-minutes win at KDB has HVA joining Bearden at state tourney

For Ryan Radcliffe and his Bearden SoccerDawgs, earning a trip to Murfreesboro for the TSSAA Division I-AAA Boys Soccer State Tournament has become quite routine.

Still unbeaten, Radcliffe’s Region 2-AAA and District 4-AAA champions (18-0-3) earned the program’s fourth straight trip west, annually during the week prior to Memorial Day, with a 2-0 sectional home victory against Johnson City Science Hill Saturday evening, May 20.

Meanwhile, it’s been a dozen years since Hardin Valley Academy captured a boys soccer state championship.

Well, the Hawks are back in Murfreesboro and alongside the SoccerDawgs for this week’s state tournament after some late-match drama, on the road at Kingsport Dobyn-Bennett, in sectional play Saturday evening.

Junior forward Brady Hammer’s two goals, the last of which coming with only three minutes remaining in the match, broke a 1-1 tie and sent head coach Jessica Stephens-Burkhart and her team (12-3-6) to their first state tournament in several years.

“Brady took the ball and attacked the defense,” Stephens-Burkhart said about the match-clinching goal. “And then he laid it off to Daniel Perez (junior midfielder), and Daniel did a perfect job sending it right back — in the box through three defenders — and Brady put it top-netting.”

Overall, despite the late-drama, “We kind of had control of the game,” she said. “We had more possessions and field-of-play (advantages).

“These boys have really worked hard for this,” Stephens-Burkhart added. “It’s a testament of their ability to pull together as a unit.”

More specifically, “I think you’ve got to give a shout-out to my back line, they’ve really stayed strong,” the coach said, including Frankie Manrod (sophomore defender/midfielder) and Marques Powers (junior defender), adding Powers “had a fantastic goal against Bearden (in a 3-1 region final loss at BHS last week). And having the consistency with Connor Mast (senior defender).

“And you’ve got to look at how our offense has come to life with DJ (Powers, senior midfielder) and Ish (Palacious, senior defender) helping us as of late.”

Looking to state tourney

Making her first state tournament trip as a head coach in her third and final season leading the HVA boys — and fifth year overall with the program — Stephens-Burkhart had come close to state her previous two seasons as head coach.

“Both times we’ve been knocked out in sectionals,” she said.

But now, “We’ve got a three-game season here,” the HVA coach said about the state tourney, which began for the Hawks in the quarterfinals versus Collierville (15-3-2) Tuesday, May 23 (after deadline).

A win Tuesday would place HVA in the state semifinals against the winner of the Siegel (16-6-4) versus Station Camp (16-6-1) match. That semifinal is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., EDT, Wednesday, May 24.

The Class AAA state championship game is set to start at noon EDT, Friday, May 26, in the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.

From the other side of the bracket, the SoccerDawgs met the field’s other unbeaten team — the team that knocked off Bearden in last season’s state title game — as Brentwood (22-0-0) awaited Radcliffe’s boys in a power-packed quarterfinal match Tuesday (after deadline).

A SoccerDawgs victory would elevate them into the semifinals against the winner of the Bartlett (14-3-3) versus LaVergne (16-4-0) match. That semifinal would begin at 5 p.m., EDT, Wednesday.