KINGSPORT — 1-0.
Such a score has become an inevitable conclusion to the area’s fiercest soccer rivalry this season. Three meetings, three goals — a trio of 1-0 lines.
This time, however, fortune favored the Hilltoppers.
Senior Alex Weaver netted the lone tally, and Science Hill edged host Dobyns-Bennett to claim the Region 1-AAA boys soccer championship Thursday night at Indian Highland Park.
The result was certainly sweet. It avenged a pair of prior defeats to the Tribe this season, the last of which arrived last week in the finale of the District 1 tournament. It also handed the Indians (19-1-1) their first loss of the term.
“You can’t take anything away from (D-B),” Hill coach Brandon Kind said. “Against good teams every inch matters.
“Today it all came together for us. We’re happy for that.”
Both sides had already earned berths in the sectional round via wins earlier in the week. This victory secured a home date for Science Hill (14-6-0) against Region 2 runner-up Bearden.
D-B, meanwhile, will travel to Knoxville for a meeting with Farragut, which dismissed Bearden 4-0 on Thursday night for the Region 2 title. The Admirals, the defending Class AAA state champions, are currently ranked second in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll.
What exactly does it all mean? Well, the Indians, who contrived to produce a largely pedestrian display in one of the season’s most significant matches, must rebound. Fast.
A stat of note: The Tribe managed just two shots, one on goal. The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, finished with 21 — eight on target.
“I’m going to stick to what I said in the locker room,” Indians first-year coach Chris Woods said. “I was purely rating the game on effort and intensity, and. I told the guys that the scoreline wasn’t going to be my biggest concern.
“But, not only did Science Hill beat us on the scoreline, they also beat us in effort and intensity. That’s what’s bothersome.”
Science Hill set the tone in the opening 10 minutes. Early examinations of the D-B back four may have not been effective in a literal sense, but were in heightening the nerves.
That tension carried into the second half and, when defensive anchor Greg Vogel left the match with blurred vision after 49 minutes, the visitors seized on the opportunity.
Harry Fagleson was the first to test the waters, his quick turn and volley from the edge of the penalty area skimming the top of the crossbar. Weaver followed, in the 58th, with a brilliant solo run past three defenders from midfield. Only an equally brilliant save by Tribe goalkeeper Brett Mallinak denied him the opener.
Three minutes later, Weaver would not be denied.
A heavy diagonal pass forced him to the right edge of the box, seemingly out of range — and out of an angle — for a shot. Not so. Instead of opting for the crossing pass, Weaver saw Mallinak slightly off his line and decided to have a pop. Mallinak, unsighted, could not react quickly enough.
“I saw the goalkeeper off his line and just decided to pull it and hope for the best,” Weaver said. “I tried to pass it in right at the front post and it came off.
“I think we’ve been really unlucky,” added Weaver, referring to the two prior defeats to D-B. “I feel like we’ve controlled most of those games. They are a great side, but it all came together for us tonight.”
D-B did not respond with real intent until the final 10 minutes when Woods went to three at the back. It proved to be too late.
The Indians’ best chance came in the final minute of the opening half, when David Geno capped a nice bit of interchange by forcing a good save from Hill keeper Andrew Kenneson at his near post. A softer, more precise strike to the far post may have yielded a better result.
Regardless, D-B is still in with a shot. That’s all it really wanted.
“I don’t understand it. I was really excited with what I saw in the last five minutes,” Woods said. “I saw senior leadership. My question is where is that in the first 75 minutes? Why wait?
“If we can learn from this, we’ll be fine Saturday. I truly believe that.”