When Bearden beat Oak Ridge in March, it was considered a big win.
But the second win of the season over the Wildcats carried a little more significance.
The Bulldogs (19-3) topped Oak Ridge (14-8) in Thursday’s Region 2-AAA championship game, 4-1. It was their second win over the Wildcats by that score this season.
Bearden now advances to play Sevier County (18-2-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a sub-state game at Bearden High School. The Smoky Bears lost to Dobyns-Bennett on Thursday, 3-0.
“It’s a great honor [to make it this far],” Bearden Coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “Like I was telling somebody last week, it’s special just to get out of the district and win the district championship, and it’s even bigger to win regions.”
After taking a 2-0 lead into halftime, Bearden put the game away with two goals in a 34 second stretch, the first on a penalty kick by senior Gabe Alvarez with 7:54 remaining, and the second by senior Spencer Smiley on a tap in off of an assist by junior Will Lewis.
“We had a comfortable lead going into halftime, but one more goal would’ve put them back in the game,” Lewis said. “That stretch was crucial and put us in control of the game.”
The Bulldogs’ first half goals came from Smiley with 7:15 in the first half and on an Alvarez header with 4:52.
Oak Ridge scored their lone goal with 1:14 remaining on a penalty kick by Blake Clowers.
“Our whole goal going into this game was to win so that we could host sub-state, and now we know that from here on out, it’s win or go home,” junior midfielder Michael Tarantino said. “We’re really looking to get a state championship, and we know hosting this sub-state game is important in getting us there.”
The Smoky Bears have not played nearly as grueling a schedule as the Bulldogs, but they are a threat to score goals in bunches. Sevier Co. has managed five goals or more in eight of its wins this season.
They’ve also kept 10 clean sheets.
The winner of Saturday’s match moves on to the first round of the state tournament in Murfreesboro on Tuesday. The final is Friday.
“I just told the boys, ‘I’d love to get excited, but I’d love to get even more excited next Friday,'” Coach Radcliffe said. “We’re on a mission and we know what we want the end result to be.”