KINGSPORT – Indian Highland Park has become a barren region for homestanding Dobyns-Bennett.
For the fourth straight season, Science Hill defeated the District 1-AAA champion Indians on Thursday to win the regional title.
Nick Boegemann nudged a loose ball just across the line into goal from close range in the 12th minute and Daniel Adelman made a couple of difficult saves in the second half to lift the Hilltoppers to a 1-0 victory after losing twice to D-B by scores of 5-1 in the teams’ previous two meetings this season.
Science Hill (16-5-2) will host Maryville (13-5-3) in a sectional matchup Saturday at 6 p.m. D-B (19-3-1) will visit Farragut (19-3), which beat Maryville 2-0 on Thursday.
Not that coach Brandon Kind’s Hilltoppers felt like underdogs in need of a fluke, but their early score and recent history seemed to help tighten up the favored Indians.
“I think it was in their mind, just from past years and how things have gone,” said Science Hill sophomore John Luccesi, who helped anchor a stingy defense. “But I think both teams came out there knowing we could win it. It’s just we had the better day and we played better.”
It took several seconds, at least, for officials to signal the game’s lone score. Boegemann said Jhordan Rogers intentionally let John Huffman’s cross go between his legs because he had no angle for a shot, and Boegemann was the beneficiary of the impromptu opportunity.
“And it was sloppy, you know, but I got a touch on it and it slipped through his hands and got in the goal,” Boegemann said. “It was definitely in. The whole ball was across the line. It was obvious.”
D-B’s Jeremy Horton had an opportunity to tie the score some eight minutes after intermission, but Adelman’s leaping, right-handed save knocked the blast with overspin over the crossbar. Adelman also denied a Jorge De Gyve blast with an exceptional save to his right with some 17 minutes remaining.
“Daniel is unbelievable,” Science Hill coach Brandon Kind said. “Those are pure instincts. It just comes from years of experience. He showed up and played very well tonight.”
Quality opportunities were scarce for the Indians. Adelman mentioned Luccesi, Max Vaughn, Noah Schaflin and Lucas Altman while crediting his defense on frustrating the talented Indians.
Luccesi, generally dictating action aggressively while helping secure Science Hill’s goal, had several impressive headers on long balls.
“We've been struggling a little bit this year with that defense, but we got it together in the last game (a regional semifinal win at Morristown West) and brought it in this game,” Adelman said. “It was perfect.”
Science Hill had a chance to go up 2-0 with 12 seconds remaining. But D-B keeper Preston Mercer dove to his right to deny Rogers’ penalty kick, and he quickly booted the ball beyond midfield. But Science Hill’s first touch sent the ball back in Mercer’s direction to thwart any Hail Mary hope and trigger celebratory smiles on the Science Hill bench.
Winning in this rivalry is always gratifying, but especially so after losing twice by convincing margins. It wasn’t apparent if D-B played with too much confidence, but it’s a difficult thing to ascertain.
“Just naturally, as a human, it’s hard not to when you win 5-1 twice,” Science Hill’s Kind said. “And we knew that. But we also we were doing good things in the match that were creating opportunities. We were getting as many shot attempts as they were in the previous games.
“The credit’s due to what they learned through the regular season. And every day is a building block and a lesson. And there’s so much more to teach from a losing standpoint, and once you’re not scared of than anymore, it’s a really free place to play from.”
Kind described his team and D-B as “the top two teams in the state,” and he wouldn’t be surprised if they met next week in Murfreesboro.
“All credit goes to Science Hill,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Chris Woods said. “They were the better team tonight. They came in here, they outworked us. They had a better work rate than we did.
“I thought we finished the match well. We had some chances. A great goal keeper made some great saves.”
Adelman was all smiles after helping save the ‘Toppers.
“It feels great,” he said, “and came in the last game we might possibly play them this season and came at the right time when we needed to win. It couldn't have been better timing.”