Eagles soccer off to a blistering start
The Seymour Eagles went to Kingsport viewing the Dobyns-Bennett tournament as a stepping stone. What they may have found instead was a launching pad.
The Blue and Gold went 4-0 at the usually-tough tournament, earning impressive wins over Sullivan South, Carter, Oak Ridge and Lenoir City to capture the tournament title and give the program its best start since the turn of the century.
"There were 12 teams in it, everybody played four games, and they had a point system," Seymour coach Drew Payne said Monday. "We had the most points, and we were the only team that went no losses and no ties."
Saturday night against the Oak Ridge Wildcats, the Eagles scored their most impressive victory of the young season.
"We played really well against Oak Ridge, which is a really good team, and a really good measuring stick for us," Payne said.
The Eagles used stategy earlier in the day during their 4-0 victory over Carter to prepare them for the Wildcats.
"We did a pretty good job managing (fatigue), in terms of resting," the coach said. "Four games in three days in soccer is crazy. We tried to have a system to deal with it and still win every game.
"Carter was not going to be a great team, so (resting the team in that game) was the plan Saturday morning," Payne said. "Most of the guys were out at the 20 minutes mark with us up 4-0."
Heading into the matchup with Oak Ridge, the Eagles were ready.
"We went into the game with confidence, (and) we started out really dominating in possession," Payne said.
The Eagles scored just 13 minutes into the game, when Grant Gourley's corner kick was headed right back out to him. Gourley volleyed the ball back into the crowd and teammate Kameron Grunenwald beat the keeper to the ball and whacked it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a nice goal," Payne said.
Play continued evenly for around seven minutes until an incredible thing took place.
Seymour's Fredrik Bergman — an exchange from Sweden — took a pass from teammate Connor Viars about 40 yards out and absolutely blasted it bast the Oak Ridge keeper.
"I've never seen a goal like that scored in high school," Payne said. "Fredrik gets the pass from Viars about 40 yards out, and it looks like we're still building possession. And Fredrik, out of nowhere, just rips it on a rope to the upper 90, top-left corner of the goal. Everyone just stood there stunned."
Seymour played conservatively the second half, though their coach didn't necessarily want that.
"I think the guys just naturally said, 'let's just protect the lead,'" Payne said. "We ended up in sort of a defensive formation and kind of let them have the ball.
"They scored on cross with eight minutes to go, and we just kind of held on."
But that was enough.
"It's definitely in the top two to three wins we've had since I've been here," Payne said. "Definitely the best non-district win for sure, no question about that, with the quality of their team and the history of their program. Seymour's brand new playing at that level."
With the win, the Eagles knew heading into Sunday another victory would clinch the tournament title for old SHS.
"Going into Sunday we knew we just had to win that one game to be champions," the coach said.
And that's what the Eagles did.
Seymour got goals from Jake McBrayer and Bergman (two) in a comfortable 3-1 win over Lenoir City.
"We've treated this tournament as a stepping stone and a measuring stick as well," Payne said. "We weren't going in trying to win the tournament, that's not how you
but we were trying to win every game.
"(The Wednesday leading in) we talked, and we looked at who we were playing and said our goal was to win every game.
"You don't want to get carried away, because we didn't play D-B and didn't have the toughest path of all the teams in the tournament, but it's still cool to be recognized in that fashion."
The Eagles next big step is a Thursday night game against Sevier County in Sevierville.