BRISTOL — Heads-up play won the District 1-AAA soccer championship for Dobyns-Bennett.
The Indians defeated Science Hill 2-1 in overtime Thursday night at the Stone Castle, in a match which all three goals were scored on headers off set plays.
Jorge DeGyves slipped a header in the right side of the goal in the 86th minute for the winning score.
“They just finished one more than we did,” Science Hill head coach Brandon Kind said as his team fell to 14-5-1. “They’re a good group, but we’ve got to finish our chances. That’s the bottom line.”
Dobyns-Bennett head coach Chris Woods said a set play creates difficult situations for the opposing defense.
“That’s such a tough ball to defend,” said Woods after his team improved to 16-1-3. “You’re careful in the box because you don’t want anything stupid to happen. Also for goalkeepers, that’s ridiculously hard to defend. The thing changes direction so quickly.
“(Science Hill goalkeeper Andrew) Kenneson is tough to beat. He’s a beast, there’s no doubt, but I would remiss if I didn’t talk about my goalkeeper (Preston Mercer) who got a touch on that last one.”
D-B dodged a bullet in the 99th minute, thanks to Mercer’s save of Oscar Mora’s high arching kick from the left side, which Mercer tipped into the crossbar.
“That’s the life of a goalkeeper,” Woods said. “When you’re playing a program like Science Hill or Dobyns-Bennett, you might sit there and do nothing for 70-80-90 minutes, then all of the sudden you have to make the save.
“That ball was going in, and he pushed it on to the crossbar. It was a great take, I thought it was a goal, but a wonderful save by our goalkeeper.”
Wilfred Williams gave Science Hill a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute, taking a direct kick from Miller Franklin and flicking the ball on a header past Dobyns-Bennett goalkeeper Preston Mercer.
In the 60th minute, Science Hill missed on a close call and a chance to go up by two goals when Nick Boegeman’s shot sailed over the crossbar.
Eight minutes later, D-B responded when Austin Pate turned a header off fullback Brad Elpers’ kick from midfield for the 1-1 tie.
Elpers was named the tournament MVP for his efforts, and his assist was a thing of beauty to his head coach.
“It was awesome for him to understand that ball has to be a little shorter because of Kenneson who is a black hole back there,” Woods said. “For Elpers to take a little off that, it allowed Pate to have a go at it.”
Tightly contested throughout, the Indians held a 19-13 shot advantage.
The Hilltoppers were without two key seniors, forward Conner Franklin and defender Perry Murdaugh, due to illness. Defenders Tanner Leach and Ben Cooper picked up play in their abscence to help offset the losses.
“They did a tremendous job for us,” Kind said. “Ben hadn’t played in the back all year. Playing back there, he did a great job. I couldn’t asked anything more from Tanner either.
“Really, all the guys on the field left all out there. We just didn’t finish our chances.”
Science Hill will go on the road next week against the winner of tonight’s District 2 championship between Jefferson County and Sevier County. Dobyns-Bennett will host the loser of the match.
Kind remembered his team lost 3-0 to D-B in last year’s District 1-AAA final, but went on to advance to the state championship game.
“We lost this game last year, but we came back and it worked out well for us,” Kind said. “It gives us motivation.”