GREENEVILLE — In the early going of the Super Region 1-A/AA soccer semifinal, Greeneville High was like a fastball pitcher with no control — high, wide and wider. But in the middle of the first half, the Greene Devils began to zero in on their target — Elizabethton junior goalkeeper Luke Broyles.
The Cyclones battled, but in the end the speed and physicality of Greenville won the day and the match 4-0 at Burley Stadium — ending the season for EHS.
Junior forward Drew Fezell scored two goals and assisted on a goal by sophomore forward Hays Culbreth to help lead the Devils to a 3-nil halftime lead.
“I didn’t feel that we played that badly to be down three goals,” said EHS head coach Bill Mc-Clay. “They are very fast up top, and in the first game against them we dealt with it. Today, they took better angles and had more diagonal runs. We spread ourselves out too much and lost our shape defensively, leaving the middle open and inevitably the ball found their feet.”
Culbreth and Fezell both had great chances early on breakaways but both fired wide of the target — and in a frantic early rally Culbreth had a shot and two rebound tries against Broyles, who made a sparkling stop while sprawled on the turf.
On the third try, Culbreth fired over the crossbar and the score stood at 0-0.
“You hate to leave goals on the field, so when you leave goals like that and don’t hit the back of the net you always think is it going to cost us later,” said Greeneville head coach Jerry Graham. “Elizabethton always gets up for this game — Bill does a good job of preparing them — but tonight we looked for feet and our passes found them.
“This is just the first step, the first hurdle really, in our goal of getting back to Murfreesboro. Whoever comes out of Knoxville will be tough to deal with.”
In the 19th minute all that changed as Culbreth received a pass from Fezell outside the EHS goal area and charged the net with purpose — and his ensuing shot gave the Devils a 1-0 advantage.
It was Fezell’s turn in the 30th minute as he found the ball in the Cyclones’ goal box to the right of Broyles and fired a rocket that Broyles caught, but his momentum falling backward caused the ball to slip from his grasp and trickle into the net.
Seven minutes later, Fezell struck again with an assist from Culbreth to stake Greeneville to a three-goal halftime lead.
“Once they got the third goal we deflated a little bit,” said McClay. “We defended well in the second half, cut down a lot of shot attempts, but offensively we couldn’t make passes to feet. We just were not able to finish passes.”
The game remained at three goals until senior forward Sean Howell showed a real burst of speed down the home sideline, got past EHS defender Nick Malyar, moved toward the middle and hit the back of the net with a scorching shot.
Howell’s tally sealed the deal in the 51st minute and both teams substituted freely after that, with only a wide shot by senior forward Rafael Teixeira as the Cyclones only challenge.
A defensive gem was turned in by Broyles and senior defenseman Will Arnold in the late going as Howell broke loose again with the ball on his toes — and he fired a shot that Broyles sprawled to the turf to stop.
The rebound spun to Ivan Ocampo who tried to drill one past the prone Cyclone keeper, but Arnold snuck to the post and turned away the shot.
“It’s kind of sad to leave,” said Arnold. “The season was down for awhile then it went up and got exciting. I hope these returning guys can come back here next year and get a win.”
EHS notes: Teixeira was held without a goal for just the third time this season. Teixeira finished his senior season with 24 goals, including three hat tricks. The Cyclones graduate six from this year’s squad, including Teixeira.
Elizabethton 0 0 — 0 Greeneville 3 1 — 4 First Half GHS—Culbreth (assist Fezell), 19:00 GHS—Fezell (assist Culbreth), 30:00 GHS—Fezell (unassisted), 37:00 Second Half
GHS—Howell (unassisted) 51:00
Shots on goal: GHS 11, EHS 4.