Last week, the East Hamilton boys’ soccer team clinched its third consecutive district title.
Now the Hurricanes have extended their dominance in the region as well.
With a convincing 4-0 victory over East Ridge on Thursday in the Region 3 championship match, coach John Millard’s team earned its second three-peat in as many weeks, and will host a Class A/AA state sectional on Saturday against the loser of Thursday’s Region 4 final between Notre Dame and Chattanooga Christian.
The Hurricanes defeated East Ridge 1-0 a week ago in the District 6 final, but Millard said the difference this week was that his players were able to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
“Even in that last game, we had several chances in the first half, we just didn’t finish,” he said. “The difference today was that we had some guys get some looks and finish them. Sometimes you’re finishing well, which makes life a lot easier, and sometimes you’re not, which makes life a little tougher.”
East Hamilton got on the board with a goal from Jalen Goddard about 20 minutes into the region final, and the 1-0 lead held until Jose Orellana followed a shot into the net 10 minutes into the second period. Cam Carter added a third goal for the Hurricanes, and Casey Hardison capped off the scoring when he followed his own shot with five minutes remaining in the match.
Keeper Fielder Dennis and the East Hamilton defense continued their impressive run of shutouts, with Thursday marking the 11th consecutive match in which Hurricanes’ opponents have been unable to score a goal. East Hamilton hasn’t given up a score since its 2-1 regular-season meeting with East Ridge on April 13.
“We have a great keeper and great backs, and we defend well as a team from the forwards on back to Fielder,” Millard said. “That’s one thing we’ve talked about. Sometimes you’re going to have five great opportunities and finish every single one of them. Sometimes you could have the same five opportunities and not finish any of them, but if you’re solid defensively, you always have the opportunity to shut teams out. The guys have really bought into that and done a good job with it.”
East Ridge (13-3-2) struggled to get its offense going against that tough defense on Thursday, as the Pioneers lost their third match of the year against the Hurricanes.
“It just wasn’t our day,” East Ridge coach Jeremy McIntyre said. “I thought we started out well, but that first goal maybe took the air out of us a little bit. In the first half, we were in it. We had some chances, but their defense is solid and we just couldn’t get around them. I just told the guys to let this loss be a lesson. Hopefully it will motivate us to play even harder on Saturday.”
The Pioneers will travel to face the winner of Thursday’s region final between CCS and Notre Dame for Saturday’s state sectional, while East Hamilton (18-1-2) will host the loser of that match. Saturday’s winners advance to next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro, and after a disappointing home loss in the sectionals last year, the Hurricanes are hoping for a different outcome this time.
“We don’t talk about last year a whole lot, but I know they set the goal at the beginning of the season that this is where they wanted to be,” Millard said. “They want the opportunity to be back in that substate game, so they’re excited and I’m excited for them. At this point, it’s just a matter of are you healthy, and are you playing well. We’re getting healthier and we’re playing pretty well, so hopefully we’ll play well again on Saturday and get back to Spring Fling.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com)