Getting off to a 4-0 start had already brought Bradley Central’s boys soccer team to uncharted territory.
After Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Rhea County, the Bears propelled themselves even further into the unknown as they now stand at 5-0.
“This is more new territory for us,” Bradley coach Tucker Blackmon proudly proclaimed. “Rhea is always a tough team. They are never easy to play because they play hard and physical, which challenges teams.”
Both the Eagles and the Bears battled back and forth across the pitch for the majority of the first half.
The first goal of the game came from Rhea County with only four minutes remaining in the half.
Aziz El-Qadi got one past the Eagles’ keeper in the final two minutes, tying things up 1-all going into halftime.
“In the first half we tend to get pulled out of our system and we look at teams and are like ‘Ok, I can take this guy one on one,’ and then we try to start dribbling and send it through the middle,” Blackmon explained. “When we play our system and start checking back to the ball, opening it up, playing it wide and spreading teams out, we start getting those shots. All I told them at halftime was that we weren’t playing our system.”
Bradley was able to get back to their system in the second half, as they controlled the ball for the majority of the next 40 minutes of play.
A pass from Austin (Childs or Goodaker) to Esteban Beltramin, who powered it past the keeper, gave the Bears a 2-1 lead in the 67th minute.
Fifteen minutes later, Jace Boyd found the back of the net for Bradley’s third goal.
Boyd was also credited with the Bears’ fourth and final goal of the game, after his kick was knocked in by a Rhea defender.
The Eagles were able to get one final goal past the Bradley keeper in the final minute of play.
That second goal by Rhea County marked only the fourth goal that has gotten past senior keeper Joey White.
“I was very proud of our second half. That last minute or two disappointed me. It looked like we got into some talking and that’s not what we do. Rhea County shut us up a little bit, and I think that was deserved,” Blackmon said. “I thought Rhea won that first half, even though it was tied 1-1. In the second half Joey didn’t get much action, but we’re a second half team and always have been. We had three goals and we should’ve had seven but hit the post. It’s the story of every game so far, we’re hitting the post. We have 20 or so shots on goal when we play our system. We just have to be disciplined.”
Coach Blackmon felt that two players in particular had a fantastic game.
“Brendan Hayes and Aziz El-Qadi straight up carried us through the whole game. We had a lot of players start playing well in the second half, but those two went hard all game,” Blackmon stated. “Brendan was winning balls in the back and Aziz fought and got that first goal. The second goal, even though he didn’t get the goal or assist (Aziz) made it happen with pressure and it was an easy pass from Austin to get it to Esteban.”
Last season the Bears finished with only six wins total.
This year, they are one game away from matching that record and are doing it in the first three weeks of the season.
To maintain their undefeated record, Bradley will have to come out on top of a much-improved Walker Valley team in what will be both school’s first game back after spring break.
The Mustangs’ only District 5-AAA win in 2013 came in their 1-0 defeat of the Bears in a lackluster game.
This past Thursday, Walker Valley already secured their first district win following a 2-1 victory over Soddy-Daisy.
“Walker Valley scares me. Coach Bayliss has them playing well and it’s going to be a war. That’s a game that if we don’t bring our A-game we will probably lose it. It is an intense game every year,” Blackmon stated. “Last year we played our worst game of the season against Walker Valley. It was embarrassing and I don’t think that either coach was happy. It wasn’t fun for anyone playing or watching. Both teams have improved so significantly this year that I think it will be quite a good game.”
The Bears will host the Mustangs on April 1 at 5:30 p.m.
BEARS 4, EAGLES 2
Halftime score: 1-1. Goals: Jace Boyd 2, Aziz El-Qadi, Esteban Beltramin (BC). Assists: Austin (Childs or Goodaker) Record: Bradley Central 5-0.