Soccer has always been a prominent force at Bearden High School. This year, the Bulldogs are looking to return to the state tournament and keep the tradition of a powerhouse soccer team alive.
With nine returning seniors in the current starting 11, the Dogs have an edge with the experience of these seniors, who were a part of the program as freshmen when Bearden won the state championship. Though this group didn’t get much of a look in that similarly-experienced team, they still saw what it took to go on a title run.
“It’s good having a senior class who knows how things are run,” Coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “There’s a lot of kids out there that have a lot of experience.”
The Bulldogs won their season opener against defending Class A state champion Gatlinburg-Pittman 9-0 on Tuesday, and they will travel to Georgia for a tournament this weekend. Bearden will then host rival Hardin Valley on March 26.
“All of the seniors have played in a lot of big games,” captain Trey Kelly said. “The experience really helps when we get in those big games, when we get down in a situation where we need people to step up.
“It’s just good to have seniors who have seen that before and know what it takes to get to state.”
Senior captain and last year’s leading goal scorer Collin Lewis, who signed with Lee University in November, said not many teams can match up with Bearden when it comes to playing time in big games.
“I think that only a few teams in the state have this experience, and I think that will help carry us to the state tournament and hopefully the championship,” Lewis said. “This year we have a target on our back, and we are probably the highest rated team in the area right now.
“People are going to be ready for us.”
Considering the large number of seniors on this years team, there is a great opportunity for younger players to learn and gain experience by practicing with the older guys to build for the upcoming seasons.
“With such a big senior class, you always look to the future and say, ‘I gotta start developing some younger kids,’ but hopefully the younger kids are gaining a lot of experience by going against this group of seniors,” Coach Radcliffe said. “Every team hates us and wants to beat us, and we’re going to get everybody’s best game and it’s not going to be easy.”