D-B soccer players celebrate their win over Science Hill Thursday. Kris Wilson photo.
KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett soccer coach Chris Woods had only one question, directed at his senior class, prior to Thursday night’s District 1-AAA tournament championship match at Indian Highland Park.
“We had the seniors stand up. I asked for anybody who has won a district tournament title to remain standing,” revealed Woods, in his first year at D-B. “No one was left standing.
“There’s no reason this program should ever have a class graduate without a district title.”
This year’s class does not have to worry about that anymore.
A lone goal, provided by senior Jack Dell after 14 minutes, separated the Tribe from Science Hill in another absorbing addition to the two sides’ storied rivalry.
This moment has been in the making for some time. Thursday’s 1-0 win earned the first district tournament crown since 2002 for the Indians (18-0-1).
“I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said D-B junior defender Greg Vogel, who was selected the tournament’s MVP following an imperious display against the Hilltoppers (12-6).
“I’m a junior, so my freshman and sophomore years were utter disappointments. This is just overhwhelming. I’m speechless.”
He wasn’t the only one. Woods may have just joined the program this summer, but he understood the significance of this week.
He understood what it meant to win Tuesday against Tennessee High — D-B’s first semifinal win in two years. He understood what a win Thursday could mean to his team.
“This is an emotional night. Overhwelming,” Woods said. “On the first day I was named coach I met with the seniors. This is their third coach. That’s never easy.
“So I brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and started it off well. That first day we set some goals and this was one of them.”
The Tribe is not done yet. They will host the loser of tonight’s District 2-AAA final on Tuesday at Indian Highland in the opening round of the Region 1 playoffs. Science Hill, meanwhile, will travel to the District 2 winner.
A third meeting with the Tribe — this one in Thursday’s regional final — is the ’Toppers’ aim. Both defeats have been by a lone goal, something not lost on Hill coach Brandon Kind.
Kind’s side, as comfortable as they were in possession on Thursday, lacked a real cutting edge up top. Their best chance arrived in the final minute of the match, and rather than shoot from 12 yards, Jordan Richardson opted to play a diagonal for Harry Fagleson at the back post. Indians goalkeeper Brett Mallinak gobbled it up.
Science Hill finished with 10 shots, none of which were on target. Most if not all were from outside the penalty area.
“I don’t know what it is with (D-B),” Kind said. “Tonight, everything came together except the finishing. Against a good team like them, you’ve got to put it all together.
“Lot of credit to Dobyns-Bennett. Hopefully we can put it together on the road and come back and see them again.”
The Tribe managed only four shots, but made one count.
A neat 1-2 just inside midfield between Dell and fellow senior David Geno set the decisive move in motion. Dell returned the ball to Geno, who broke free down the right flank — exploited throughout the opening half by the Tribe.
Geno managed to break free of his marker and get to the byline before sending a rasping cross to the center of the box. Dell arrived right on time, redirecting the pass with a volley to the far post.
At the time, the goal appeared to be the spark the game needed. Instead, it marked the end of the scoring — and the beginning of a resolute, and ultimately winning, display from the hosts.
“This is what this game should be every single year,” Woods said. “Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett are the flagship programs in Northeast Tennessee. This match should be this way, this tense, every time we play.”