KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett left no doubt.
Outplaying Science Hill throughout the game, the Indians slammed the Hilltoppers 5-1 in what was expected to be a Big Eight Conference soccer showdown Friday night at Indian-Highland Park.
The Indians (10-2-1) pushed their league record to 4-0 while Science Hill slipped to 2-1 in the conference and 6-3-1 overall.
It was a game to forget for the Hilltoppers.
“The bottom line is we didn't show up,” said Hilltoppers' head coach Brandon Kind. “We let it get flat and let them catch the momentum, and we never recovered.
“We are a resilient group. I hope (the Indians) woke a sleeping giant.”
Despite the lopsided score, D-B's biggest weapon was goalkeeper Preston Mercer. He denied shot after shot, especially in the second half as the Indians kept the Hilltoppers an arm's length away.
Mercer was particularly tough on some in-range direct kicks by the Hilltoppers.
“We worked in practice on those type of shots because we knew they could make some long kicks,” said Mercer. “The ball was definitely moving because of the wind, and I had just a split second to react.”
Indians head coach Chris Woods said Mercer is special.
“I wouldn't trade him for any goalkeeper in the state of Tennessee,” said Woods. “I've had him for four years, and he works hard. He tore his ACL in the offseason, but came back two months early — Adrian Peterson style.”
After the Hilltoppers controlled the first 10 minutes of the game, the Indians started tilting the field. Eventually Jorge De Gyves crunched one into the middle of the net after the Hilltoppers were unable to clear a high ball in the box in the 15th minute.
Just three minutes later, the Indians struck again. This time Evan Fenyves delivered a sweetly placed cross to the foot of Seth Douthat, who only had to re-direct it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
If Science Hill wasn't in major trouble at that point, it came shortly. Sheldon Menya found the goal in the 31st minute, and the Indians had a commanding 3-0 lead.
However, the Hilltoppers didn't just wilt. They came back with a score from Cole Greer, whose shot hit a defender and ricocheted into the net in the 34th minute.
And if the Hilltoppers had converted some opportunities, the game could have changed in the second half. Science Hill got several nice looks, but the 'Toppers didn't score.
“We created some opportunities, but things didn't fall our way,” said Kind. “We will be better for this.”
D-B put the finishing touches on the win as Austin Pate scored in the 73rd minute.
A big crowd witnessed the game, something Woods said shows how this rivalry has grown.
“Brandon and I were talking before the game, and we both feel this thing has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” said Woods. “It was a great crowd.”
If history holds course, these teams will get at least one more shot at each other in the postseason.