Luckily for Bradley Central’s soccer squad the order of that quote was reversed Thursday evening as the Bears claimed a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over visiting Sequoyah in the regular season finale.
“The first half, we played like we’ve played the whole month of April,” Bear head coach Tucker Blackmon said of the 2-0 halftime deficit. “The second half, it looked more like the team we had at the beginning of the season. Playing hard and with passion.”
After getting off just four shots on goal, without any finding nylon in the opening 40 minutes, Bradley netted its first three shots after the intermission and then tacked on two more scores in the match’s final 10 minutes.
After starting the season with four victories in the first five matches, the Bears had won just once in their last nine tries before last night. Bradley (6-9) will open District 5-AAA Tournament play this evening at 5:30 in Athens against second-seeded McMinn County.
“If we play like we did in the second half, we can play with anybody in our district,” proclaimed coach Blackmon. “Sports are fun when you play them with the passion we had in the second half.”
“All I told the seniors (Mason McCann, Caleb Rumler and Frank Nolan) at halftime was, this is your final match here (on the BCHS pitch), so is this how you want to go out?” he added. “It was Senior Night, and these guys have worked hard. I’m glad we were able to send them off the way we did.”
In an opening half that was dominated by open field defense, neither team got off many shots. But Sequoyah was able to score once in the first 15 minutes and again at the 27:30 mark.
“Both of those were break away shots where our defense let the ball get behind them. That left our goal keeper (Joey White) one-on-one, and you can’t hold him responsible for goals like that,” coach Blackmon expressed. “He did a great job all night long.”
White finished with 10 saves, including nine on 11 second half attempts by the Chiefs.
Trailing 2-0, the Bears wasted little time of letting the visitors know the tide had turned after the break. With an aggressive offensive charge, Bradley got a corner kick five minutes into the second half. Sophomore Toribio Navarro sent the ball to the far side of the box where junior Austin Childs headed it past the Chief goal keeper.
Seven minutes later, junior Jace Boyd evened the score when he got free on a break away and drilled what would be the first of three straight goals he would net.
Boyd added the second at the 56-minute mark when he fired in a shot from 20-yards out and then completed his “hat trick” from about the same distance off of a ricochet in the 70th minute.
The icing on the celebration cake for the Bears came in the last five minutes when Boyd and senior Mason McCann executed a perfect give-and-go in front of the box for the final goal. Boyd got the assist while McCann fired the ball past the keeper for the score.
“Jace (Boyd) had an incredible half, but it wasn’t just him,” praised coach Blackmon. “The entire offense put the pressure on and got us in position to score.”
Bradley got off a dozen shots on goal in the second half with five of them finding the nylon.
“We did a good job of passing the ball and working together,” Blackmon assessed. “Even if we had lost, as long as we gave that kind of effort, I would be happy.”