Category Archives: high school soccer

Quick-strike offense stuns Lions in Class AAA state quarterfinals

By Charles Pulliam
Williamson Herald

MURFREESBORO – After a couple early misses – including banging a shot off the crossbar – the Franklin boys soccer team struck in a hurry and often against future region foe Columbia Central.  

Landon Robbins scored twice and Benji Wright added another goal as the Admirals scored three late tallies in less than seven minutes Tuesday and advanced to the Class AAA state semifinals with a 3-0 win over the Lions at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. 

Robbins netted the breakthrough goal on a lofted ball from Bradley Whelan in the 63rd for Franklin. His second tally came when A.J. Elliot hustled down a long ball and crossed to Robbins, who leaped with a defender in front of the goal and back-heeled the ball into the back of the net. The spectacular shot made it 2-0 in the 69th and ignited the Admirals faithful.

“Our chemistry for a while now has been very good,” Robbins said of being able to find the pass from Elliot. “I came over to that left side and he just knew I was there. 

“We usually mess around after training for about 30 minutes practicing tricks.” 

“Sometimes in a game, they become available,” Elliot added. “That was a good one.” 

Less than a minute later, Franklin scored the final goal when Wright broke loose up the middle and beat two defenders before placing a low shot perfectly to make it 3-0. 

“The floodgates opened,” Franklin coach Mike Burgoyne said. “The boys really started well, we even hit the post a couple times, but the longer the game went 0-0 you felt the anxiety build. 

“Columbia Central is a great team. They came out well-organized and their keeper made a couple great saves, but when that first one went through, our confidence lifted and the boys came through.” 

Franklin managed nine shots on goal, compared to just one for the Lions. Columbia Central coach Greg Szydlowski said he was happy with how his boys managed to stay even with Franklin early. The coach had to go to his bench with about 17 minutes to play when left back Brandon Carrascoza and right back John Dunn were forced to exit in the more than 90-degree heat. 

That change triggered an opening Franklin took advantage of. 

“We’re just not that deep, and they attacked that switch right away and put it in,” Szydlowski said after completing an 18-4-1 campaign. “I’m really proud of these guys though because they really battled. That’s soccer sometimes though. It’s a hot day and you have to make some changes and they capitalized.”

“We will remember this one,” the coach added. “We get to see them in the same region (6-AAA) next year and we get some of our top guys back. We’ll be back.” 

Victor Ramirez, who closed the season with a team-high 26 goals for the Lions, managed two shots, but was held in check for most of the match. Keeper Dane Holley closed with six saves for Columbia Central. 

“They’re a tough team,” Elliot said. “I think scoring three goals late like that really helps us. It’s a confidence booster going into (Wednesday) and now we just have to rest up and go get another one.” 

Aiden Moss earned the shutout in goal for Franklin. 

The Admirals, who improved to 13-3 overall, will face Bearden in the semifinals. Bearden (19-3-1) stretched their match into the evening before outlasting Collierville (18-2-3) with a 1-0 win, taking the match in penalty kicks 5-4. 

Houston (14-2-4) takes on Oakland (19-0-3) in the other semifinal. Both start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.  

High Five: Central snaps halftime tie with five goals, routs Stewarts Creek

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA – Veteran boys soccer coach Greg Szydlowski admitted to some butterflies Tuesday night.

Brewer Wall, Columbia Central’s junior forward, tried to settle his coach as best he could.

“I said at halftime, ‘we’re going to score a lot of goals’,” Wall said after the Lions’ second-half barrage delivered a 6-1 Region 4-AAA tournament semifinal victory over visiting Stewarts Creek.

Wall had a pair of those scoring kicks, the second coming during a six-minute span in which Central (17-2-1) decisively snapped a 1-1 halftime deadlock with three goals. Randy Gray and Victor Ramirez each found the back of the net prior to Wall, who scored three minutes into the contest.

“With all the chances we had in the first half, I thought they were going to start flowing in. And this is ‘our’ goal,” Wall said, pointing at the net on the west end of Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Stewarts Creek (10-8-1) scored what turned out to be its only goal of the night just seconds after Wall got the hosts on the scoreboard, countering with a Bill Mabudi marker at the 35:57 mark of the opening period.

“Drew (Norman, co-coach) and I were talking at the beginning. We knew with their scouting that they were going to ‘high press’ us,” Szydlowski said. “But that’s going to burn you eventually. With our technical ability and our athleticism, we wore them down. People with athletes can find that space.

“That was probably the most nervous I’ve been all year. It’s the biggest game of the year – win or go home.”

In the final 40 minutes, the Lions made sure they weren’t going home. Gray put Central ahead for good on his header inside the right post off a Ramirez corner kick from the opposite side with 24:09 remaining. Ramirez added a score off a deep free kick from the right side three minutes later, and Wall converted a Kameron Smith pass at the 17:59 mark.

Another Ramirez free kick with 9:42 remaining further extended the lead, and Gray picked up his second goal with six minutes to go when a teammate’s shot caromed off RedHawk goalkeeper Alend Mohammed and he redirected it into the net — further cementing Columbia Central’s third consecutive state sectional appearance.

“I wouldn’t change anything except we gave them the set pieces and they were able to capitalize,” Stewarts Creek coach Fulgence Latema said. “Our kids played hard. We had objectives and we achieved them. We created chances. We just gave up cheap shots and they were able to capitalize.”

Defensively, Columbia Central particularly focused its efforts on senior forward Mak Binder – devoting at least a couple of Lions to him whenever he was in possession of the ball.

“Our back line – Randy, Colin Rowe, Brandon Carrascoza and John Dunn – played so well,” Szydlowski said. “They didn’t play that well against Shelbyville (in the District 8-AAA finals). This time, we held No. 7 (Binder) and No. 37 (Haile Sharp).

“What an amazing win for our boys. But we’re not done. We figured at the start, seven matches will get us to the state championship. This is No. 3.”

No. 4 takes Columbia Central to Oakland, the District 7-AAA titlist, for Thursday’s region final. Oakland defeated Shelbyville 5-0 in the other regional semifinal.

Thursday’s winner will host a Class AAA sectional contest on Saturday, with the loser traveling to face the Region 3-AAA champion.

The Patriots scored twice in the final four minutes to defeat Central 3-2 on May 1.

“We know what’s coming,” Wall said. “We definitely played one of our worst games (against Oakland). We’ll be ready.”

Ramirez dials long distance twice as Lions win District 8-AAA title

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA – Against a defensive-minded Shelbyville team that forced a draw in the final District 8-AAA regular-season contest between the two, Columbia Central converted three free kicks Thursday night to earn the district tournament title with a 3-2 win over the visiting Golden Eagles.

Victor Ramirez put the Lions ahead twice from 30-plus yards out, placing a pair of longballs between the crossbar and Shelbyville goalkeeper Jared Ramos – the last with 12:07 remaining, before the Central defense held took control for the remainder of the contest.

“We had a couple of chances, but we usually create more chances,” Ramirez said after the victory. “They shut that down, so we relied on the set pieces to get it done.”

Columbia Central (16-2-1) defeated Shelbyville 3-0 in the season-opening match for both teams, before the Golden Eagles battled to a 2-2 tie on April 29 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium – the only league blemish for the regular-season champion Lions.

“The first time, they didn’t know our game plan,” Ramirez said. “They did a good job adjusting the second time. We knew we had to come out stronger, and we did. The score line shows it.”

Shelbyville (7-6-2), the tournament’s No. 2 seed, took a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the game as Daniel Juarez guided a shot from the left side of the box past Central goalie Dane Holley and into the right corner of the goal.

From there, the visitors’ defensive approach created issues for the Lions – negating their speed by clogging the attacking area with virtually the entire team.

“They were dropping nine in whenever we attacked,” Central coach Greg Szydlowski said. “With the style we play, they made it difficult for us to find lanes.

“They played us the way they should have played us. They attacked our back line. It wasn’t one of our better games. It wasn’t as clean a first half. Our overall play was much better in the second half. You’ve got to be precise when you play the ball in the air, and we weren’t.”

Following a couple of Holley saves that prevented Shelbyville from extending the lead, Brandon Carrascoza scored the equalizer for Central near the midpoint of the first half on a free kick after a Golden Eagle foul.

That score held up into intermission, before Ramirez put the hosts ahead 2-1 with his direct kick from about 40 yards out just six minutes into the second half.

“I just look and see where the keeper is at, and I know where to hit it,” Ramirez said.

Shelbyville managed to even the contest when Noah Carballoso punched a rebound off the left post past Holley with 17:34 to play.

“We were out of position on the first goal,” Szydlowski said. “They pressed the whole game. You’ve got to give them credit for the second goal.”

The deadlock set the stage for Ramirez’s gamewinner, following another Shelbyville foul.

“Hat’s off to them; they’ve got a lot of talent,” Golden Eagles coach Chris Fritz said. “With a guy like Ramirez, any foul can be dangerous. He can put them away.”

“You don’t want to give Vic any opportunity from a free-kick standpoint,” Szydlowski said. “He’s special. It’s not like we practice that.”

With the win, Columbia Central is set to host Stewarts Creek – which fell 2-0 to Oakland in the District 7-AAA finals – in Tuesday’s Region 4-AAA semifinal. Shelbyville will travel Tuesday to Oakland.

Courtesy photos by Buffy Holt

8-AAA all-district team named

SM-Tn Sports

District 8-AAA boys soccer coaches recently selected their all-district team and superlative award winners, with regular-season champion Columbia Central taking a number of honors.

Lions sophomore goalie Dane Holley was named 8-AAA goalkeeper of the year, with juniors Victor Ramirez and Brewer Wall recognized as the league’s top midfielder and forward, respectively. Central’s Greg Szydlowski was honored as the district coach of the year.

The full list of selections follows:

All-District first team – Emilio Contreras, John Martinez (Coffee Co.); Brandon Carrascoza, Mason Hollandsworth, Kameron Smith (Columbia Central); Rylan Banks, Camden Eslick (Franklin Co.); Santana Carrillo, Sammy Gantes (Lincoln Co.); Yahir Cervantes, Dyson Collins, Cristian Ramos (Shelbyville).

All-District second team – Joseph Galindo, Bodey Todd (Coffee Co.); Randy Gray, Collin Rowe, Raul Sarabia (Columbia Central); Brad Simmons, Caleb Tubb (Franklin Co.); Damian Castaneda, John Sharp (Lincoln Co.); Edgar Solis, Ryan Tacuba, Pepe Vargas (Shelbyville).

Goalkeeper of the Year – Dane Holley, Columbia Central; Defender of the Year – Eduardo AJ, Shelbyville; Midfielder of the Year – Victor Ramirez, Columbia Central; Forward of the Year – Brewer Wall, Columbia Central; Freshman of the Year – Kolby Themm, Shelbyville; Coach of the Year – Greg Szydlowski, Columbia Central.

Lions drop first decision, but encouraged following defeat

By Maurice Patton

COLUMBIA – Greg Szydlowski was looking for a measuring stick when he scheduled Thursday’s matchup.

With his Columbia Central boys soccer team off to a perfect start through 10 games and unscored upon in five District 8-AAA contests, the veteran coach wanted to know just where his Lions stood against the best with postseason play looming in a couple of weeks.

After dropping a 3-1 decision to visiting Station Camp, Szydlowski was pleased with the answer.

“I’m elated for these kids. They work hard,” Szydlowski said as the unbeaten Bison scored twice in the opening 25 minutes and never relinquished the lead to improve to 8-0-4. “(We found out) that we belong with the best in the state. We belong with that team.”

Columbia Central goalkeeper Dane Holley discusses the Lions’ 3-1 loss Thursday night to visiting Station Camp, an outcome that ended their unbeaten start to the season after 10 wins. (Video by Maurice Patton / SM-Tn Sports)

Station Camp, which won Class AAA state titles in 2017 and ’18 before falling to Bearden in the 2019 state finals, scored less than four minutes into Thursday’s clash but the goal was waved off. The Bison got on the scoreboard at the 32:56 mark when Joey Bombrys converted on a loose ball in front of the goal, then extended the margin with 16:38 remaining in the half on an Ethan Schlegel goal.

Central’s Victor Ramirez cut the deficit in half on a direct kick that deflected off the Station Camp goalkeeper, off the crossbar and into the net with nine minutes to go before intermission.

That would turn out to be the only Lions marker, and the visitors re-established that two-goal lead with 15 minutes remaining as Chaz Bellweber scored.

“That’s an extremely high-pressure team – fast,” Bison coach Jeremy Cooke said. “That’s a team you want to play to prepare for state because that’s what you’re going to see at state.”

After falling in the Class AAA state sectionals in 2018 and ’19, Szydlowski is hopeful that Cooke is right regarding his team.

“You look: Goal (No.) 1 was a ‘gimme’; we had some miscommunication and the ball bounces,” the Lions coach said. “Goal 3, the backside (defense) wasn’t there and the guy finishes. Miscommunication again.

“There’s some adjustments we need to make. We wanted video against a team that’s going to be in the state tournament. Win, lose or draw, we were going to find out how strong we are.

“We’ve got some guys that we’ve got to get inserted so they’re more confident in those situations. But overall, we stuck with them. The first 20 minutes, we were a little ‘David and Goliath’. But the last 10 minutes of the first half, they were in trouble. They switched formations. They were in a 3-5-2, but we were beating them on their flanks and they went to a four-back formation.”

Columbia Central returns to District 8-AAA play Friday against visiting Coffee County – the Lions won 6-0 at Manchester on Tuesday – before traveling to Lincoln County Monday and hosting Shelbyville Thursday to complete league competition.

Courtesy photos by Buffy Holt

Wall pushes Central past Spring Hill; Lions stay perfect

By Maurice Patton

SPRING HILL – Brewer Wall said a physical contest is to be expected when his Columbia Central boys soccer team meets Spring Hill.

Thursday was no exception.

In a matchup where seemingly everyone was on the ground at one point or another, Wall’s second goal of the game snapped a halftime deadlock and pushed the visiting Lions to a 3-1 victory.

“It was a rough game, a physical game,” Wall said after his team moved to 6-0. “It’s always more physical against Spring Hill.”

Central may have needed that physicality in order to get focused. Following a nine-day layoff and contemplating Spring Break – Thursday was the last day of class for Maury County Public Schools until April 12 – the Lions weren’t especially sharp through the first half.

Spring Hill (5-2) took advantage, striking first as freshman Tyson Peters punched a loose ball past Central goalkeeper Dane Holley as he strayed too far from the goal mouth at the 17:31 mark.

“I think we went to Spring Break early,” Lions coach Greg Szydlowski said. “It wasn’t that we were looking past Spring Hill. We hadn’t played in nine days. We had to get our feel back.”

Wall scored eight minutes later from the left wing for the equalizer, and the 1-1 score stood through intermission.

Wall’s second goal, off goalie Carter Coleman’s foot with 30:46 to play, put the visitors ahead for good, and Victor Ramirez added an insurance goal 10 minutes later. Coleman stopped a Wall shot just moments later, and Central misfired twice from point-blank range near the nine-minute mark as the Lions turned up the heat on both ends.

“We’ve got four freshman starters,” Raiders coach Sadiq Al Amery said. “In the second half, we lost position. The second goal was a mistake, and they put their heads down.

“It’s tough to come back against a team like Columbia. I’m proud of our players. They just have too much talent. But we learned something. Always when you play good teams, you learn something.”

Central’s second-half surge was somewhat of an expectation for Szydlowski, as the Lions have outscored six opponents by a 20-2 margin.

“Brewer and Vic are our two best players. They play at a high level outside of us, with Tennessee Soccer Club,” he said. “With Kameron (Smith), Brewer, Mason (Hollandsworth) and Vic up front, we just wear teams out. It’s tough to manage them for a full game, with their ability on the ball, their vision, speed and quickness.

“It just wears teams out.”

Courtesy photos by Buffy Holt