GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Nick Bradford was smiling from ear to ear Friday evening.
And why not.
In his coaching debut at Hardin Valley Academy (Tenn.), the former McCallie player and coach saw his Hardin Valley squad weather a barrage of shots and come away with a scoreless draw with McCallie, the SIMA FAB 50 Spring No. 3 team.
"Hopefully this game can catapult us to a good season," Bradford said. "[McCallie] was excellent. They moved the ball. They created chances."
The difference in the game came down to Hardin Valley veteran keeper Andrew Foster, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior who plays football in the fall. Foster was aggressive off the line, often getting in the way of McCallie shots. He made a couple diving stops. But most importantly, his big foot was able to launch the ball to McCallie’s penalty box, forcing the team to start possession deep in their territory and build from there. McCallie held a 25-4 advantage in shots, but could get one past Foster.
The tie puts Coppell (Texas) in the driver's seat for the Clingman's Dome Division, the top bracket at the event. Francisco Redondo and Wyatt Priest both scored twice as Coppell thrashed Daphne (Ala.) 7-0. Coppell can win the bracket with a win Saturday over Hardin Valley or a tie with Hardin Valley and McCallie scoring fewer than seven goals in matches against Daphne.
In another key match Friday, Station Camp, with a youthful lineup, stunned SIMA FAB 50 No. 19 Christian Brothers (Tenn.) 2-0 on a pair of second-half goals in the Mount Guyout Division. That result now takes the focus off the Christian Brothers-J.L. Mann (S.C.) match Saturday and puts it clearly on Sunday’s Station Camp-J.L. Mann clash. Also, Father Ryan (Tenn.) rushed to the top of the Mount LeConte Division with a 9-1 thrashing of Lexington (Tenn.).
Station Camp is loaded with underclass players, and junior Atakelti Gebregzabher emerged as the star Friday night. The speedy forward scored the first goal and set up the second with a clever pass to a wide open teammate whose shot attempt went right to another Station Camp player who finished in the open net. Several of Station Camp’s players compete for three Tennessee teams that are competing in the US Youth Soccer National League. Gebregzabher was the player of the day last summer at the Louisville camp and he played with Tennessee United.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: While soccer is the focal point of this weekend’s Smoky Mountain Cup, community support is in the minds of many. Gatlinburg is still recovering from the fires that swept through the area in November. Four Tennessee schools – Christian Brothers, Station Camp, Chuckey-Doak and Greeneville -- made significant donations to the Gatlinburg community after the fires and then followed that up by participating in this year’s event.
D Michael Basso, Coppell (Texas), So.: Basso is on the list for the second straight day after an even stronger performance. He pretty well cleaned up everything that came his way.
MF Marshall Board, Coppell (Texas), Jr.: Board scored the first goal of Coppell’s win and was a dangerous left-sided player.
D Chris Cory, Daphne (Ala.), Sr.: Cory helped Daphne keep up its tempo, but then left the match to injury. Once he was gone, Coppell rolled off four goals in quick succession.
D Connor DeFreece, Christian Brothers (Tenn.), Jr.: DeFreece showed good leadership and kept his composure in a match that got testy. He also made good decisions playing balls out of the back.
F Stephen Falter, Murfreesboro Central Magnet (Tenn.), Jr.: Falter was very dangerous getting in behind and finishing crosses. He scored two of the team's three goals.
GK Andrew Foster, Hardin Valley Academy (Tenn.), Sr.: Without a doubt, the star of Hardin Valley’s scoreless draw with favored McCallie. He was under pressure the entire match, came up with some key saves – and even took one off the face to keep the shutout. In addition, his big foot put the ball back on McCallie’s 18 and made them build up again.
F Atakelti Gebregzabher, Station Camp (Tenn.), Jr.: He was the most dynamic player in the Station Camp-Christian Brothers match, scoring the first goal and delivering a quality pass that resulted in the second goal in Station Camp’s 2-0 win. Gebregzabher plays for the Tennessee United SC team that competes in the US Youth Soccer National League.
F Marlon Henriquez, Sevier County (Tenn.), Sr.: Scored the team's first goal and worked very hard to create multiple opportunities.
F Daniel Ingram, Boyd-Buchanan School (Tenn.), So.: Ingram scored a pair of goals in Boyd-Buchanan's win over Sevier County.
MF Wyatt Priest, Coppell (Texas), Jr.: Priest is so fluid, slicing through defenses, creating and finishing chances. He was involved in at least three goals directly by scoring or assisting.
F Francisco Redondo, Coppell (Texas), Jr.: Redondo scored a pair of goals, and with a pair of starting offensive players out of this weekend, he has picked up his production.