At Their Best: West defeats Tennessee High in R1-AAA semis, will host title game
Morristown West’s Cole Collins (18) battles for possession of the ball with Tennessee High’s Orlando Rosales during Tuesday’s Region 1-AAA soccer semifinal at Burke-Toney Stadium. The Trojans won 6-3 and will host the Region 1-AAA championship match against Science Hill Thursday night.
Morristown West soccer coach Todd Bradley said his team was outclassed by Tennessee High in a 2-0 loss earlier in the season, a match where he said his team didn’t play at their best.
In a rematch Tuesday night in the Region 1-AAA semifinals, Bradley saw his Trojans exact revenge by playing at their finest on the offensive end. After 80 minutes of battle, West walked away with a 6-3 win and a spot in the region championship game and the Class AAA Sectionals for the first time in six years.
The Trojans (13-5-3) will host the Region 1-AAA championship game against undefeated Science Hill (18-0-1) Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Burke-Toney Stadium after seeing six different players score in Tuesday’s win over Tennessee High. The Vikings season came to an end with the loss, as they finished 12-6-1.
“This was a really hard fought match, and the guys really stepped up and played very, very hard,” Bradley said. “We excelled at moving the ball and possession, and when we broke them down, they got tired and we were able to break through and finish out the match.”
West had goals from Jeremiah Esparza, Andy Potter, Matt Sawyer, Britt Haney, Ike Hunsucker and Jorge Perez in the win, and Bradley said spreading the scoring around makes the team much tougher to defend.
“Having six different guys score says a lot for our team, and it shows that we are progressing and moving forward,” Bradley said. “Having six guys score really opens up the game for us, and it makes it difficult for the opposing team to cover that many guys. It shows how hard they have worked and what they have done this season.”
Despite allowing three goals in the match, Bradley was proud of the way his defensive back line and keeper Chandler Townsend played.
“You can say six goals all you want, but our defense really shut them down,” Bradley said. “Preston Breeding, Andy Potter and Britt Haney all had incredible games, and Austin Christopher really had a great game also. Cole Collins did as well, and really everybody had such a great game. Britt even got in on the scoring, and that is another thing that makes him such an effective back.”
Tennessee High had an opportunity to score just a minute into the game, but Townsend deflected away the shot from midfield and the Trojans controlled possession for the next 10 minutes.
It didn’t take long for West to find the back of the net, using crisp passing and an aggressive attack to get into position. Esparza broke through for the Trojans and drilled a low shot from 30 yards out past a diving Spencer Pruner for the opening tally with 36:25 on the clock.
West had three more chances to push across another goal in the next six minutes, but they came away empty handed each time. Pruner deflected a shot by Jose Manuel and a minute later saw Sawyer blast a shot just over the crossbar and Esparza hit a hard liner that was saved.
The Vikings got on the board in the 17th minute, with Jonas Schenderlein knotting the score at 1 after a foul on the Trojans deep in their zone. Orlando Rosales reacted quickly before the West defense could settle into position, and he touched a soft pass to Schenderlein, who equalized on a shot into the lower right corner of the goal past Townsend.
Much like the first half, West wasted little time scoring in the second half, ad Potter found the net from 22 yards out to put the Trojans on top less than two minutes into the half. The lead swelled to 3-1 when Sawyer deflected a pass from Hunsucker past the Vikings keeper, scoring with his back to the net and booting it in with his back heel.
Rosales pulled Tennessee High within a goal less than two minutes later, as his direct kick from 24 yards found the open net and made it 3-2 with 22:44 remaining.
Seven minutes later, Haney got in on the scoring off a corner kick. The kick was deflected out of the keeper’s box, but Haney collected it and drove one home to up the lead to 4-2.
The Vikings were a bit fortunate to get their final tally with 13:08 left, as a failed clearance in the middle of a mass of bodies allowed Tennessee High to score. A West defender attempted to boot the ball away from just in front of the goal, but the ball hit Carter Mullins in the back and bounced into the goal.
The Trojans never lost their aggression after the tally from the Vikings, and Hunsucker put the game away with a driving shot from 30 yards out past the diving Pruner with 9:56 remaining. Perez added the final goal of the match in the last few seconds to make the final 6-3.
“All props go to coach (Evandro) Valente and their team for a great season,” Bradley said. “I think we had pretty similar records coming in, and they did an excellent job. Tonight we just came out on the winning end.”
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor