Region champion boys soccer team hungry to avenge last year’s state title game loss


Davis Taylor

The Bearden boys soccer team fell just short of a state title a year ago, and their seniors are hungry to finish their careers with a win in their final game of the season.

This year’s Bearden boys soccer team has 13 seniors, which means that Coach Ryan Radcliffe has 13 captains on his roster.

That’s not normal for a high school soccer team or any soccer team for that matter, but having 13 seniors allows for the team to really feel like a family because of how most of them have been playing together since their elementary and middle school days.

“This is a different feel than any other team I’ve had in the past,” Radcliffe said. “These boys, especially the seniors, are a very tight-knit group and really play for each other on the field, which is such an advantage for us as we get further along into the postseason.”

That senior experience paid off in a 1-0 region championship win over West in extra time on Thursday, even though it was junior Lucas Nordin whose late goal prevented the match from being settled by penalties.

The Bulldogs now host a sectional game on Saturday against Science Hill with a berth in the state tournament on the line. Many of the 13 seniors played a pivotal role in Bearden’s road to the state championship game a year ago, and they are ready for another shot to avenge last season’s 2-1 loss to Houston in that game.

Coach Radcliffe has not shied away from the big games, which is why he scheduled grueling non-district games against opponents such as Webb and Hendersonville, who sit at Nos. 6 and 7 in the state respectively, to help prepare the team better for their postseason run.

“These boys understand the grind and the mentality you have to have to win games at this stage against great teams,” Radcliffe said. “The tough district that we play in mixed with the hard non-district games that we played in has done a great deal to help us get to the back to the stage we are at now and will hopefully allow for us to get back to the title game.”

This senior class has had a lot of experience when it comes to state titles. They were a part of the program when the Bulldogs defeated Station Camp in penalty kicks to win the 2019 state title, but also suffered last year’s heartache.

“These boys have seen and experienced what it’s like to win a state title, but have also seen the losing side of a state championship and have felt the sour taste that it leaves in your mouth,” Radcliffe said.

The Houston loss still doesn’t sit right with the senior class, and that has been something that they have used as motivation throughout this year. 

“Every year we come in with the mentality to win a state championship, and the loss last year is really a pushing factor in the run that we look to make this year,” senior defender Luke Wilkins said.

One senior that has been especially hurt by the loss is Dylan Kolnick, who suffered an injury that caused him to miss the state title game last season. 

“Dylan plays with the mentality that he wants to leave everything out on the field, and he absolutely hates that he wasn’t able to play in the game last year,” Radcliffe said. “It’s something that has bothered him since the game, and he has used that feeling that he had last year to spark the great season he has had this year.”