Bearden opens season with 2-1 win over defending champs HVA

Lowry Bender’s second half goal lifted Bearden to a 2-1 win in its season opener against reigning state champion Hardin Valley on Tuesday. The Bulldogs (1-0) pulled out the hard fought victory thanks to some hard work done by Bearden’s forwards and a solid second half performance from sophomore keeper Rhys Fielder, who was making his first varsity start. Bearden is still yet to lose to Hardin Valley (0-1), winning four times and drawing the season opener 1-1 a year ago. “I was very happy with the way (the team) came out,” Coach Eric Turner said. “The only way we get better is to throw (the team) into the fire.” Starting the season off against the reigning state champions can certainly be considered “trial by fire,” even more so for those making their first starts. Some of these changes came naturally with a large graduation rate of Bearden soccer players last year, and some were forced by unfortunate circumstances. “We had a couple of guys who couldn’t go tonight and (the younger players) stepped up big,” Coach Turner said. One such player who couldn’t go was starting keeper Logan Dodson who is expected to miss another week. The injury forced Coach Turner to look down one spot on his depth chart to Fielder. The young keeper let in the first goal of the match to HVA senior Chris Gallaher, but there was little Fielder could do after Jonathan Perelman found space on the right side of the box to set up an easy finish for Gallaher. “(The start) wasn’t really what I was hoping for, but I knew we could get back in it with this team,” Fielder said. Bearden began to step up the pressure on the Hawks’ defense soon after allowing the first goal. Two shots spun wide for the Bulldogs at the 19 and 16 minute marks, and the momentum had seemed to shift to Bearden’s sideline. Bearden’s first goal came with 7:31 left in the first half, a scoring chance created by a beautiful through ball from senior captain Conner McCarty. Junior Brent Seltzer timed his run well to stay onside and expertly finished to beat HVA sophomore keeper Andrew Meek. “I just saw the opening so I ran for it and their defenders weren’t really on guard,” said Seltzer, who had given the Bulldogs a lift off the bench even before the goal. The play showcased the amount of talent Bearden has on its front line this year. “(McCarty and Bender) were doing great,” Seltzer said. “(McCarty) had that great through ball for my goal and (Bender) won every ball.” The strikers put on a show on Tuesday of raw talent; missing, however, was a certain communication and delicacy of touch at times, Coach Turner said. “Our forwards have to be better trapping balls,” he said. “Once they get better… we are going to be very, very dangerous. Those three are going to do great.” Bearden’s second goal came off a long throw from Jake Goodman with 15:01 left in the second half, when Bender put in a savvy close range effort, again assisted by McCarty. “The time that second ball hit the back of the net I knew we were going to win that game,” Fielder said. The goal wouldn’t have put Bearden ahead if not for some great saves by Fielder at the 39 and 31 minute marks in the second half. He punched another goal away with just 6:18 left in the match, saving the result for his team. Bearden will next host Dobyns-Bennett on Friday night at 7. “As a coach, I am not comfortable with anything right now,” Coach Turner said, “but the trademark of Bearden soccer is that we are going to work hard.” Jacob Steimer is the sports editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.