Alex Martinez's goal lifts Sevier County to 3-2 win
Coach Bryan Atchley said it was perhaps the prettiest goal his Sevier County boys soccer team had all year.
On a night when Heritage seemed to shake off every scoring chance the Smoky Bears got, the most important thing was that Alex Martinez’s shot was, indeed, in the back of the net, pretty or not.
“We hit post after post after post,” Atchley said. “You keep convincing your kids, keep plugging and keep going, but you're out here thinking, ‘Is Karma really biting me right now?’ You just don’t know.”
Sevier County peppered Mountaineers keeper Ben Sternberg with 23 shots but only an Anthony Lemus shot and a throw-in from Connor Rytz made it past the senior in the first 67 minutes.
Finally, Martinez delivered his second game-winning goal of the year when Lemus put a ball across the box and onto his feet. The sophomore calmly redirected it in to give the Bears a 3-2 victory in the Sevier County Invitational.
“It was perfect,” Martinez said. “It was right there in front of my feet.”
It was hardly the first time the Bears had the ball on a tee in front of Sternberg. The keeper made 17 saves to keep his team in it and build up frustration for the hosts. The chances came rapidly for Sevier County, but they were just that.
The Bears threatened from the start with Donovan Hull chipping a ball over Sternberg — and the crossbar — in a 1-on-1 situation just a few minutes in. By the midway point of the first half, after David Pickens had scored his first of two goals to give Heritage a 1-0 lead, Kenny Fisher clanked a ball from Lemus off the post. Eventually, Lemus equalized to bring the teams even at the half.
“It was real hectic, but I felt pretty comfortable,” Sternberg said. “They just kept coming at us. They just wouldn’t stop.”
Heritage had its opportunities to strike, generally after an acrobatic save from its keeper. Pickens' second goal pulled the teams level at 2-2 with a little under a half-hour to go.
But Sevier County continued to press with Lemus. Hull played a ball that tantalizingly skipped across the mouth of the goal with 18 minutes to play, but no Bear could get a foot to it.
“We were getting beat on the outside a lot,” said Mountaineers coach Nick Bradford. “They had very skillful dribblers.”
It was that outside play that finally did Heritage in. Hull played a nice ball down the wing to Lemus who held it just long enough to feed Martinez in the mixer in front of the goal.
“You practice that over and over and over and over again,” Atchley said. “And it finally comes through. It’s good to see things you work on pay off.”