The Hilltoppers knocked it home four times in the first half, and rolled to a 4-1 victory over Cookeville in the Class AAA state quarterfinals Tuesday night at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
Improving to 21-0-1 and setting a school record for wins in a season, the Hilltoppers earned a date with top-ranked and undefeated Franklin (17-0-0) tonight at 8 o’clock (EDT). Franklin beat Memphis White Station, 4-0.
“We’re very excited for it,” said Science Hill head coach Brandon Kind. “They have a great team and so do we. That’s why we came here, to play the best teams. Our guys are very excited, and they will rely on their preparation.”
Science Hill will try to get off to another lightning-quick start, something that has been commonplace in the postseason. The Hilltoppers scored in just the third minute with Javier Alberto first in line, scorching one past the Cookeville goalkeeper.
“We came out before the game and knocked the ball around a little,” said Kind. “These guys are like a bunch of caged animals. But it was the control and execution. We were really spot on, and that’s what I’m proud of. We kept our composure, and came together as a team.”
In the 13th minute, Lucas Altman scored on a “backer.” A corner kick in the box glanced off Altman’s back as he leapt in the air for a 2-0 Science Hill lead.
The next goal, coming in the 22nd minute was similar. A throw-in came into the box and Jared Lady was near the goal line as he deflected it away from the keeper and into the net.
Both goals were products of being in the right place at the right time.
“It’s the anticipation — where to be off the ball,” said Kind. “It’s something that gets overlooked all the time, but that’s where everything is created.”
Miller Franklin netted the fourth goal just two minutes later, and the Hilltoppers controlled the rest of the first half.
It was more of the same in the second half, until Cookeville knocked one into the net in the 78th minute. It was the fifth late-game goal allowed by Science Hill in its last four contests.
Despite that goal, the defense was tough on Cookeville throughout the contest. Goalkeeper Grayson Garland said he had plenty of help from his defenders.
“They came through a lot in this game,” said Garland. “The defense was really strong. They all know what to do. I just guide them and point out people they don’t see.”
This was the third state tournament win in the last four years for Science Hill. The Hilltoppers also defeated Cookeville 4-1 in the state quarterfinals in 2011, and reached the championship game before losing to Hardin Valley.
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter. Like him on Facebook.