WHITE HOUSE – Owen Clark was a midfielder who served in a reserve role the last time the White House High boys soccer program advanced to the Class A-AA State Tournament.
Clark and the rest of his senior teammates put the past two years of postseason frustration behind them on Saturday evening, handing visiting Page a 2-0 setback to earn the program’s sixth state appearance.
The Blue Devils fell in the district semifinals in 2014 and lost a penalty-kick shootout at Christ Presbyterian Academy in the sectional round last season.
“If you are looking at our roster and our starting lineup, we are a young team,” Clark – now a defender – said. “People don’t realize that most of the sophomores on the field played in that game against CPA last year. We have a ton of postseason experience on the field. That loss last year definitely motivated us this year.”
White House (19-2-3) evened its record at 6-6 in sectional/substate matches, having won four of its last five. The Blue Devil program advanced to the state level for the fourth time over the last six seasons.
“We talked about it yesterday and before the game (on Saturday),” White House head coach Mark Lamberth said. “The state tournament is not a pot of gold guarded by a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow. It’s where good teams go to play.
“Our biggest fear is when the last seconds tick off – win or lose – we won’t be together any more. They’ve all been special (seasons), but this bunch is a little special from an intangibles standpoint.”
Blue Devil junior Austin Blansett played a ball from near the right end line to the front of the goal in the 21st minute, and senior teammate Mark Lees headed it into the net for his 30th goal of the season.
Then, Josh Dunlap took a shot in the 65th minute that was denied by Patriot goalkeeper Wilson West, but after the rebound ricocheted off of Dunlap’s thigh and a Page defender, Dunlap placed it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
The White House defense – consisting of senior goalkeeper Logan Trimmer, sophomore reserve Ethan Smith and starters Clark, Seth Bumbalough, Corey Curtis and Matthew Smith – handled the rest. It was the 12th shutout for that group and the team’s 17th consecutive victory.
“We knew they were overall a bigger team,” Clark said. “We knew they were probably going to play direct. We had to keep our shape, win the ball and play it on the ground. When we play it in the air, we’re not as effective.”
The Blue Devils will open play in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against Greeneville (21-2).
Reach Craig Harris at email@example.com or at 615-575-7138. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.
Class A-AA sectional results
Greeneville 3, Knoxville Catholic 1
Christian Academy of Knoxville 8, Sullivan South 1
Notre Dame 2, Boyd-Buchanan 0
Central Magnet 4, East Ridge 0
White House 2, Page 0
Christ Presbyterian Academy 2, Martin Luther King Magnet 0
Lexington 1, Sheffield 0
Jackson Christian 2, Dyersburg 1