By DAVE LINK
MURFREESBORO – Sevier County’s soccer team survived a scare Tuesday night during the Class AA state quarterfinals.
The Smoky Bears (19-1-2) had a 3-0 lead with 9 minutes to play and held on for a 3-2 victory over Murfreesboro Central Magnet (14-5-2) at Siegel Soccer Complex.
“They tested my heart, that’s for sure,” Sevier County coach Tim Bohanan said. “You know it’s never over, especially when you play such a quality team like Murfreesboro Central. I told the guys on the way down here, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. We had to earn every single thing we got, and these guys embraced the challenge. We’re just so fortunate and blessed to be here and be playing another day.”
Sevier County plays Dyersburg at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday in the semifinals.
Dyersburg (18-2) advanced with a 1-0 victory over Red Bank in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
The Smoky Bears are making just their second appearance at state soccer. They lost in the 2019 state championship to Greeneville, 2-1.
In Tuesday’s match, Sevier County had 12 shots to four for Murfreesboro Central and had nine corner kicks to two for the Tigers.
“All the credit in the world goes to these guys in purple out here,” Bohanan said. “They fought and fought and fought. They’ve done it all season long and they did it tonight. This was huge coming here playing Murfreesboro (Central), basically a home game for them. We knew we sort of had the world against us in this one, but our guys embraced the challenge. Now, the next challenge is to enjoy this one, but it’s not going to get any easier tomorrow. It’s going to be as hard or harder tomorrow.”
Senior Brayan Moran gave the Smoky Bears a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 12th minute.
Junior Kent Koester scored the next two goals on headers off corner kicks by junior Alejandro Acosta, the first coming in the 43rd minute and the next in the 58th minute.
“We’ve practiced it a lot,” Koester said. “(Acosto is) really good at putting those balls in, and I’m pretty good in the air. I lost my man and put them in.”
Murfreesboro Central’s Jorje Guaniel scored with 8 minutes, 12 seconds left, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
William Kasselbaum’s goal with 5:51 to play made it 3-2.
“I think we should have defended better,” Koester said, “but in the end, it’s a win and we’ll move on to the semis and then focus on the final.”
GREENEVILLE WINS, 2-0
Greeneville didn’t play its best match Tuesday night but advanced with a 2-0 victory over South Gibson in the Class AA state quarterfinals at Siegel Soccer Complex.
“We just came out here and didn’t really find our feet early,” Greeneville coach Jerry Graham said. “I can’t really say that there was one aspect of the game that we really did well the first half. We cleaned up a little bit of it the second half and started finding our feet a little bit more.
“Our off-the-ball movement was really poor the first half and we really worked on that the second half. I think it helped us find a few more combinations but again, it still wasn’t our brand of soccer, so hopefully we’ll come back tomorrow and do a little bit better.”
Greeneville (14-7-2), three-time defending state champion in Class AA, plays Page (18-1-2) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET in the state semifinals.
“On paper, Page is the No. 1 team in the state, so they’re the one everybody’s after this year,” Graham said. “They’ve got a quality team. We’ve seen some of their scores. They’ve got a remarkable record. We’re just lucky and happy to be playing in the second round tomorrow.”
Greenville outshot South Gibson 15-3 and had seven corner kicks to four for the Hornets.
Colby Freeman got the shutout for the Greene Devils, posting one save.
Samuel Crawford gave Greeneville a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute when he drilled a free kick from about 28 yards into the upper-left corner of the goal past keeper Lake Lovorn.
The Greene Devils made it 2-0 in the 73rd minute on Josue Castillo’s rebound goal when Lovorn came out to make a save.
Graham expects another stern test Wednesday from Page.
“I think it’s going to take a little bit of rest,” Graham said. “We’re going to need better off-the-ball movement. Our technical ability is going to have to be a little better. Our passes are going to have to be cleaner. We’re going to have to work a little bit harder. We didn’t step when we should have, and that was all over the field. Again, that was something that we didn’t clean up a lot in the second half today, so we’re going to have to work harder tomorrow.”