The Buccaneers got the ball to the right of the Cleveland defense as the clock ticked down, and Wes Ruddell’s slam from some 25 yards out reached the upper left corner of the goal for the winning score, 2-1. Senior Thomas Heile got the assist on the winning goal.
Coach John Brose’s Blue Raiders rallied from a goal down to tie the score at 1-1 in the second half on a foul in the box on midfield Javier Rico. A penalty kick by senior standout Ben Kimball with 19:40 remaining tied the game.
Cleveland had several chances to go in front over the final minutes, especially one double opportunity when Javier and Seth Goza had bang-bang kicks that bounced off the pole.
“We played well, although we would have liked to gotten the win,” said Brose after the game. “I believe our good play in the second period Friday (against Chattanooga Notre Dame) carried over to this match.”
The Blue Raiders rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit to tie Notre Dame, 2-2. Cleveland had opened Classic play with a scoreless tie against Baylor Thursday night.
Beech’s final-minute win over Cleveland did not clinch the Classic title for the Buccaneers. They had to wait for the results of a second game between two undefeated “Rebel Rousers.”
Maryville’s Rebels beat the Franklin Rebels, 2-0, to remain unbeaten in Classic play. The championship trophy went to Beech via goals scored, the points system tie-breaker.
For Maryville to unseat Beech as Classic Champion, they would have to win by more than two goals. Franklin had scored four goals in their first two games in the Classic, and could have taken the title by beating Maryville.
In Friday matches, Beech defeated Ooltewah, 4-0, Franklin whipped Soddy-Daisy, 4-1; and Maryville got by McMinn County, 2-0. Saturday morning Maryville blanked Baylor, 2-0; Beech shut out East Hamilton, 3-0; and Franklin topped Ooltewah, 4-1.
Beech Coach P.A. Bowler, whose Buccaneers opened their 2011 season at the Classic, said Cleveland was the best team they played this weekend. He said fatigue may have set in a bit for his players, since they played earlier in the day Saturday.
Beech is anticipating a successful year. “We return 15 of our top 16 players from last year,” Bowler said before the match with Cleveland. With 14 experienced juniors and four seniors, Beech could be a team to contend with in state soccer circles.
“We were very young during my first three years as coach, and now we’re here with experience and a group of mature players,” Bowler said.
“Beech is a very good team,” said Cleveland’s Brose. “They’re very solid, but have no great individuals. Still, they have a lot of players who contribute.
Many of the Buccaneers contributed Saturday, but they were forced to play well by the Blue Raiders’ uprising.
Cleveland also had a number of players who contributed to the near-win. Kimball got the tying goal after the foul on Javier, Goza hustled throughout the game and goalkeeper Pierson Bunch had an outstanding match with a lot of saves.
“We did what we wanted to do in the Classic (with two ties and a narrow loss),” said Coach Brose. “We wanted to get better as we prepare for a tough District 5-AAA season. I think we did that.”
The Cleveland soccer team will not return to action until March 31 against East Hamilton at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex. The Raiders were scheduled to play Bradley Central March 29, but that match has been hanged to April 15. The Raiders are going to Nashville on the 29th to see the U.S. National Team perform.
Just as in earlier matches this season, the Raiders started slow against Beech. Caleb Morgan got the Buccaneers’ first goal at the 34:10 mark of the opening period on an assist from Alex Willet.
Defenses then settled down for both teams as they moved up and down the field prior to halftime. Both teams had several penetrations with chances to score.
The standoff, with Beech one goal up, continued through the second period. Just after the midway point of the period, Javier got loose down the left-center of the field and was violently tripped as he entered the box. Kimball’s kick was perfect into the right side of the Beech goalie.
The Raiders and Buccaneers then jockeyed back and forth, until Beech hit the dramatic goal with a minute left.
Raiders 2, Irish 2
Kimball, who scored the tying goal for the Raiders on Saturday, scored back-to-back goals in the second period to catch the front-running Irish in Friday. Notre Dame had taken the lead in the first period.
“It was a tale of two halves,” said Brose. “They went up 2-0 and we didn’t play very well. We came out and played well in the second half, perhaps the best we’ve played this year.”
Brose said Saturday that Friday’s second-half performance apparently carried over to the match with Beech.
Kimball’s Friday goals came on assists from Goza and Alex Rodriguez. Brose also praised the play of back defenders Elizah Thomas and Sterling Hines. “They were warriors back there,” he said.