Smyrna struggled to find the back of the net throughout the first 60 minutes Saturday afternoon of its Class AAA boys soccer sectional.
When the Bulldogs finally found it, they couldn’t miss.
Smyrna erupted for three second-half goals to rout Coffee County 4-0 on Saturday afternoon. The shut-out win, the Bulldogs’ second straight and 11th of the season earned them a spot in next week’s BlueCross Spring Fling.
“We weren’t exactly playing our game, but we were getting opportunities,” Smyrna second-year coach Brian Grogan said. “We were hitting post, and hitting crossbar. We’re veteran enough to know that will eventually come.
“Yeah, they stressed me out.”
It is Smyrna’s first state tournament appearance since 2003, when the Bulldogs made it to Spring Fling when it was played in Memphis. Smyrna will likely find out its opponent today for its Class AAA state quarterfinal.
The state tournament begins Tuesday at Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
“This is a group of seniors that are not only good players, but good students,” Grogan said. “They help out in the community. I wanted it for this group for any other group I’ve coached. It’s special, and I’ve been telling them they are special.”
Smyrna (18-4-1) had at least six shots hit the crossbar or post. Two of those came in the first half.
“I had a breakaway at one point and hit the post on the left,” said Smyrna senior forward Derek Knotts. “I just told myself, ‘Next one is in.’ But then we went to the second half and had a header that hit the crossbar. Then I told myself again, ‘OK, the next one is in.’
“And it was.”
Knotts finished with two goals to increase his season total to a District 7-AAA best 27. His first goal in the eighth minute gave the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead. It came after goalkeeper Josh Jones stopped Knotts’ initial shot. But Knotts collected the rebound and popped it past Jones.
That lead remained until Ben Loveless’ goal off a pass from Ramon Sandoval to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead in the 59th minute. That started a barrage of scores. Cameron Kerper scored off a shot that ricocheted off a Coffee County defender in the 67th minute. Knotts then finished the scoring with his second goal in the 69th minute.
“Getting to state is just a product of a lot of hard work,” said Sandoval, who is one of nine seniors on the team. “This has been a dream since eighth grade.
“We’ve played for so long together. We’ve gone through the hard times, the good times. We’ve stuck it out together.”