Chuckey-Doak kicked off the season on the right note on Tuesday night by picking up a 3-2 win over Elizabethton.
“It feels great. I really felt like if we could hang with Elizabethton and if we could get a victory here tonight then that would kind of set the tone for the season,” Black Knights Coach Corey Braithwaite said. “We struggled a bit at times, especially defensively, but they dug deep and pulled it out at the end.”
The win didn’t come easy and it didn’t come without a little late-game drama. Two penalties committed near the goal with less than ten minutes left put the Black Knight’s lead into question. Sophomore goalkeeper Levi Wirt stepped up in crunch time and blocked a penalty kick and captained his defense in a gutsy winning performance.
Ethan Grindstaff was a key contributor on offense with two second-half goals that paved the way for Chuckey-Doak’s victory.
The Black Knights took a few minutes to settle in and control the game, but they never trailed and maintained a steady composure throughout that ultimately proved them to be the superior team.
Rio Little helped put them ahead first with a strike into the net in the 10th minute of action. The senior midfielder slipped one past the goalkeeper after being denied an opportunity to score six minutes earlier. Little found an open area to the left of the keeper and put it away for Chuckey-Doak’s first goal of the year.
“Rio controls the middle for us and if you don’t have that you can’t win a soccer game,” Coach Braithwaite stated.
The Black Knights controlled the pace of the game for the next 15 minutes until the Cyclones started gaining momentum.
A corner kick nearly turned into a goal after a header was sent screaming toward Wirt in the goal. Dawson May put another shot on goal that was deflected by Wirt and eventually saved.
Two minutes later Elizabethton would get the goal it was searching for off the foot of Riley Vernon.
Reece Vernon started to make something happen by juking a Black Knight defender on the sideline. He passed it off to Drake Teague in the box. Teague set Riley Vernon up with a goal in the 26th minute to knot the score at 1-1.
Both teams would go without a goal for the rest of the half and head into the halftime break tied.
Chuckey-Doak came out of the half and started to distance themselves away from the Cyclones with a pair of goals only two minutes apart. Ethan Grindstaff sliced through the defense for goals in the 49th and 51st minutes to lift them ahead 3-1.
“He’s been very consistent so far this pre-season and it’s played into the regular season as of now,” Braithwaite mentioned.
The first of two goals came on a deflection that shifted course in midair and made it hard for the goalkeeper to knock the ball out of harm’s way. The second strike came off an assist from Jonathan Brenes with a defender draped on his shoulder.
Elizabethton didn’t waste any time scoring on their end of the field, but an offsides call waved it off and kept the score at 3-1 for the moment.
In the 62nd minute the Cyclones cut their deficit down to only one goal with a shot from Drake Teague.
The last ten minutes were action packed and filled with drama that made for an exciting ending. In the 71st minute Wirt was whistled for a penalty in the box and set Elizabethton up with a golden opportunity to tie the game on a penalty kick. The goalie made up for his mistake by jumping to the right and blocked the shot for the game-saving play.
His heroics in the goal weren’t over yet as another late penalty gave Betsy one last shot to equal Chuckey-Doak’s total. A free kick a foot outside the penalty box in the 79th minute spelled trouble for the Black Knights. The defense set up a wall in front of the goal, but were placed outside of Wirt’s liking. The goalkeeper shifted his defense and made things harder for the Cyclones to find room to score.
The kick sailed over the crossbar and every Chuckey-Doak player breathed a sigh of relief.
The Black Knights would hold on to finish the contest with a 3-2 win in their opening contest.
“His communication skills have greatly improved since last year. We opened our season last year at Elizabethton and I feel like we lost that game because of communication. A lot of that communication starts with the keeper. Coming out of his freshman year into his sophomore year he’s doing a great job just communicating and being more forceful on that backline,” Coach Braithwaite stated.
Chuckey-Doak returns to action on Thursday night for a matchup with Springfield at the Rocky Top Sports World Complex at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. The game will be played at 8:00 P.M. on field 5.