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Park, Tribe take the bite out of Bulldogs

JOE AVENTO • May 17, 2018 at 9:27 PM

KNOXVILLE — The smallest player on the field came up the biggest for the Dobyns-Bennett soccer team, and now the Indians are regional champions.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Park stopped just about everything Bearden sent his way Thursday night, making numerous diving and spectacular saves, as D-B beat the Bulldogs 3-1 in the Region 1-AAA championship game.

“That was unbelievable,” D-B coach Blake Rutherford said. “That right there was an all-state goalkeeper today. He stood on his head for the whole game and made saves all night. He was phenomenal.”

D-B (18-0-2) will play host to Maryville in Saturday’s sectional game with a berth in the state tournament at stake.

Bearden fell to 16-5 and will play at Farragut in the sectionals. The Bulldogs have advanced to the TSSAA state semifinals 11 times since 2000.

Park patrolled the penalty area liked he owned it, and the powerful Bearden attack could beat him only once, on a long-range shot he says he should have stopped.

“It feels amazing,” Park said. “I’m just happy to be out here with my teammates and my coach. Before the ball gets to me, it has to go through 10 other players and they all did a great job.”

Phillip Burdge, Sam Garcia and Drew Miller scored in the first half for the Indians, who built a 3-0 lead and held on.

Five minutes into the game, on D-B’s first foray into Bearden territory, Burdge scored on a 45-yard free kick that was mishandled by Bulldogs goalie Andrew Wilkins.

Garcia made it 2-0 with 16:48 left in the first half when he connected on a diving header off a perfect cross from Will Arrowood.

Miller scored again for the Indians seven minutes later.

The 3-0 lead lasted 50 seconds as Bearden’s Collin Lewis scored from distance. It was the first goal allowed by Park in seven games.

“That one goal, it should be a catch,” Park said. “It should be 3-0 up on that board. But it doesn’t matter. We won.”

Bearden coach Ryan Ratcliffe credited Park with being the difference in the game.

“Their keeper played awesome,” Ratcliffe said. “We had some chances. Our finishing wasn’t the greatest in the box, but he played great.”

Rutherford said he wasn’t sure what time Saturday’s sectional game would start, but he sure was glad it’s being played in Kingsport.

“You get a lot of accolades during the season and we always circle our stuff,” Rutherford said. “Winning the region is most important, getting that home sectional game. I’m just so proud of this team. They gutted it out. I’m just tickled to death with them right now. But we have to refocus because Saturday’s an elimination game.”

Email Joe Avento at [email protected]

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