Dylan Sanchez’ goal in the 34th minute stood up for the remainder of the game as Hilltoppers’ keeper Chris Casey came up huge time after time in the second half to preserve the victory.
Next up, Science Hill (15-6-1) will host Knox Karns in a TSSAA Sectional match on Saturday while Bearden (17-3-0) must travel to Farragut. The winners of those contests earn berths in the state tournament.
The first half was contentious and very chippy. Both squads were called for multiple fouls and the play was uneven.
With just six minutes before the halftime break, a familiar scenario developed. Hilltoppers’ mid-fielder Carson Cox saw Sanchez making a run and lofted a through ball that caught the Bulldogs’ defenders flatfooted. Sanchez broke clear and raced in one-on-one against the Bearden keeper.
“Carson and I have great chemistry,” said Sanchez. “He saw my run and delivered the ball right on the spot. From there I just wanted to stay composed and take my chance.”
That chance found the back of the net and Science Hill was in command.
Bearden turned up the intensity in the second half and produced 12 shots, six on goal.
Through it all, Casey was impenetrable. Every time it seemed the ball would find the net, Casey found a way to fend off the attack.
“It was nerve wracking,” said Casey. “I had to step up and be big for my team when it mattered.”
“Casey was a monster for us tonight. He came up big for us every time.”
Frustrated, the Bulldogs could only shake their heads in disbelief.
“Give credit to their keeper,” said Bearden coach Ryan Radcliffe. “He kept them in the game.
“That was the first time we’ve been shutout this season.”
Science Hill coach David Strickland was pleased for his team.
“The energy level tonight was fantastic,” said Strickland. “Everyone was checked in and focused.
“At halftime, we talked about spreading the field and retaining possession of the ball. The less Bearden had it the better.
“Before the game I told Chris (Casey) that I need three to five big saves from him and we’d do the rest. He did his job. I’m so excited for him and the rest of the team.”