By DAVE LINK
MURFREESBORO – Go get ’em next year.
That was the message Bearden senior captain Cole Turner had for his underclass teammates Friday after the 2-1 loss to Houston in the Class AAA state championship match at Siegel Soccer Complex.
Turner, a defender, was the only returning starter from Bearden’s 2019 state championship team.
“My 2019 season ended in glee and happiness and it just made me feel like the world,” Turner said. “Things didn’t roll for us today and we couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net like we wanted to. It hurts for these boys.
“A lot of them are young. They haven’t been there. They don’t know what it’s like to play on this field, but now they do. Now they’ve been there, and now it stings so much, and I know it hurts them. They want it more than I can ever imagine, and I know they’re going to come back and win this thing.”
Bearden (20-4-1) played much of the game without junior Dylan Kolnick, who collided with R.J. Jordan of Houston (16-2-4) during the first half and took a hard fall to the turf. He went to the bench for the rest of the game with a concussion.
The Bulldogs had a 1-0 lead at the time, thanks to a goal by senior Cameron Cook and an assist by Cole Hutchison in the 7th minute.
“I thought we started about as good as we could,” Bearden coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “I thought we had them on the back foot and we made some self-errors I felt like, and then an important piece of our cohesiveness (Kolnick) got a concussion and couldn’t play anymore.
“That kind of messed up our rhythm a little bit, but then I thought we still had a lot of chances there in the end and we lacked a little bit of patience and calmness to put it away there. But I thought the game was there to take. It was one of those days it didn’t bounce our way. I guess that’s soccer.”
Houston took the lead with two goals late in the first half.
Aaron O’Malley’s goal off a cross by Zach Campbell tied the match 1-all in the 29th minute.
Houston took a 2-1 lead in the 37th minute.
Bearden keeper Jonathan Diaz came out and made a stop on Hays Adams’ shot, fell to the turf, and Houston’s Everett Furnas tapped the ball into the goal.
“I thought they were a little bit of our mistakes,” Radcliffe said of the Houston goals. “We knew they were dangerous on free kicks and we gave them a free kick there late when we didn’t need to (that led to the first goal). Then we made a few errors in and around the box, and the second (goal) was the same thing. We kind of overcommitted on the play down there when we didn’t need to. I think it’s just some tired, worn-out boys who have given it everything they had. There were some mental errors that kind of affected us.”
Bearden pelted shot after shot toward Houston keeper Jack Greer in the second half.
They either sailed over the goal, wide of the goal, or were stopped by Greer, a towering keeper.
One of the biggest chances came when Levi Brady drilled a shot and Greer blocked it over the goal.
“I I thought we were finding ways to get through,” Radcliffe said. “Julian (Strickland) was outstanding picking up some plays, and Lucas (Nordin) had several chances there around the box. For whatever reason, we went high on a keeper that’s 6-7, and you’re not going to beat a keeper over the top who’s head is touching the crossbar.
“Again, I thought that we were into the game when we had those chances in the second half, but as the game kept wearing on, I thought you saw not only physical fatigue but also mental fatigue. It’s a lot of boys who have played a lot of minutes this week.”
Bearden’s last chance to score came on a corner kick by Brady with 58 seconds left, but McSwain came out goal and caught the ball.
Bearden had 16 shots to Houston’s six shots. Greer had eight saves and Diaz two.
It was a tearful trophy presentation for the Bulldogs.
“We definitely came out quick,” Turner said. “That was the plan, to come out fast and catch them off guard. I definitely think we did, and we almost had two on them quickly, but things didn’t go our way and we had a couple of slip-ups in the back. Good teams take advantage of slip-ups, and they did it, and it’s a great team, but (Bearden’s) got them next year.”
Radcliffe has the same plan.
“It’s a very special group,” he said. “It’s a group that hasn’t experienced this. Now I hope you see the frustration in their eyes and I hope they have frustration in their eyes because the seniors did a great job getting them here and getting them to understand this moment. I hope it kind of puts a little fire in our guys for next year to not just get here but to win it.”