An instant classic

Alcoa/Maryville showdown promises something special

Maryville’s Bradley Fisher pumps his fist in celebration after a goal against Oak Ridge earlier this season.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville’s Bradley Fisher pumps his fist in celebration after a goal against Oak Ridge earlier this season.

Alcoa senior Andrew Mitchell turns and eyes the goal against Cosby this year.

Alcoa senior Andrew Mitchell turns and eyes the goal against Cosby this year.

Alcoa is bringing the state’s No. 5-ranked team in Class A/AA.

Maryville comes to town packing the No. 6-ranked team in Class AAA.

The Tornadoes (10-1-1) are off to best start in school history. The Rebels (9-3-2) have never lost to Alcoa, the Tornadoes extracting a first-ever draw, 1-1, just last season.

Throw in they’re going to do this under the lights, and the stage is set for a soccer match the likes of which Blount County has never seen Friday night at Alcoa’s Goddard Field.

Kickoff is 7 p.m.

“I think it could be a classic,” Alcoa coach Tom Gorman said. “Our student body is really excited about it. We’re planning some things.”

Maryville coach Steve Feather is expecting no less.

“What he (Gorman) has done with that program has been amazing,” he said, “and it should be a great game.”

Friday’s clash has no shortage of subplots, not the least of which will be who will be in goal for the Rebels. Starter Henry Hartsoe was injured and lost indefinitely in a 2-1 loss to Farragut last week. Scrambling from a replacement, Feather sought help in the hallways at Maryville. The first-year coach settled on basketball player Ryan Click and football quarterback Philip Juhlin as possible fill-ins until Hartsoe’s return.

There was just one thing: The next match wasn’t just anybody. It was former state champion Bearden, a one-time national champion as good as it gets in high school soccer.

Feather enlisted the aid of mentor and former Rebel coach John Kerr to whip Juhlin and Click into shape, the crash course in goal keeping covering 30 minutes prior to Monday’s practice. The Rebel field players were then brought in and told to fire away.

“You should have seen the shootout,” Kerr said. “They were lighting them up.”

Feather said he was looking more for a mindset than a netminder. Juhlin already had a pair of state crowns with the football Rebels. Three years ago, Click hit one of the most famous shots in Blount County history, his 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of double overtime securing for Maryville the school’s lone basketball title.

Just before game time Tuesday, Feather said he made the decision to go with Click.

“Who has the guts to take that shot as a sophomore!” Feather said.

The decision proved genius beyond words when Click held the Bulldogs to a 1-1 draw, collecting six saves en route.

“He was phenomenal (Tuesday),” Feather said. “Ryan is fearless. That’s what I saw in him. He played beyond his ability. He saved one in the second half I don’t know how he got to.”

Click said Feather was low key in telling him he would get the start.

“He said, ‘We’re going to go with you,’” Click said. “It was a lot of fun. It was definitely something new.”

Credit, though, he said, should go where it is due. Rebel defenders Teddy Harre, Watson Hartsoe, Austin Pugh and Adam Spannbauer kept him well protected.

“They definitely did all of it,” Click said. “I had no clue. They kept (the Bulldogs) away from me as much as they could.”

It was uncertain as of Wednesday if Henry Hartsoe will be back for Friday’s match, but that’s not his only concern, Gorman said. Directed by senior Ryan Pugh, Austin’s brother, Maryville’s five-man midfield is one of the area’s best.

“They’re having an amazing season,” Gorman said. “Coach Feather has got them rockin’ and rolllin’. They possess so well in the midfield, you fall asleep and they’ve scored a goal.”

Feather is equally leery of Alcoa’s ability to counterattack. Seniors Andrew Mitchell and Sam Thompson and junior Derrick Brodus highlight a speedy Tornado team capable of a lot of scoring. In goal, Alcoa has a healthy Adrian Womac, a keeper Gorman rates as one of the best he’s seen all season.

Come postseason, the Rebels and Tornadoes will go their separate ways. It would be easy to dismiss Friday’s match as unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It would also be wrong, Gorman said.

“I’m not going to even try to pretend and play down the importance of it,” he said.

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