published Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Hurricanes have ‘grown up’

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    Hixson's Justin Mathieson, right, fights for position wtih East Hamilton's Jalen Goddard during first-half action Tuesday at Redoubt soccer complex. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

East Hamilton coach John Millard said he keeps the bar “high” in expectations for his soccer team.

Yet even he has been surprised by the Hurricanes’ achievements.

They’re 16-2-2 and defeated Notre Dame 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the Class A/AA state tournament, where they will face White House (12-9-3) in the state quarterfinals today at 5:30 p.m. EDT at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.

“I knew some things were in reach,” Millard said. “We’re young, but we’ve grown during the course of the season; we were forced to grow up a lot.”

Millard mapped out a plan for the team, knowing a possible sectional appearance likely would be against Chattanooga Christian or Notre Dame, two usual state contenders. The Hurricanes drew the Irish after winning the Region 3-A/AA championship, and Jalen Goddard’s goal in the second golden-goal period advanced East Hamilton to the state’s final eight.

“I watched our team play and felt pretty good about our ability to play with the teams that regularly go to state,” Millard said. “I had to question whether or not we would grow up, and we did.”

Millard said he had little knowledge as of Monday about White House, the District 10 champion and Region 5 runner-up.

Underdog Raiders

Playing the underdog card, Baylor has upset two teams on its way to the Division II-AA state tournament.

Coach Curtis Blair hopes the Red Raiders (7-6-5) can use that to their advantage again Wednesday. They drew two-time defending state champion Christian Brothers (15-1-2) for their semifinal matchup at 5 p.m. EDT.

Baylor, the sixth seed out of the East/Middle Region, defeated fourth-seeded Pope John Paul 4-0 before edging top seed McCallie 1-0 on a Lucas Baker goal in overtime.

“These guys have just embraced the underdog role so far,” Blair said. “It helped us against JP2, and it helped us against McCallie. It’s worked so far for us; we’re just going to keep on using it.”

Baylor relied on its defense early in the season to keep games close, while the offense, held scoreless in the first four games, tried to find itself. Ramsey Seagle leads the scoring with 10 goals and six assists, while Max Kanerva has six goals and two assists.

Goalkeeper Henrique Ribeiro has been a force for the Raiders.

Beau knows goals

Eventually, Chattanooga Christian coach Shawn Brower was going to have to find a place to put Beau Simmons.

Turns out, the forward position was just fine.

The junior leads the Chargers with 19 goals, and his contributions have helped soften the loss for most of the season of East Tennessee State University signee Rocklin Shumaker, the 2010 city player of the year. Shumaker had a hamstring injury.

Brower said he toyed with playing Simmons, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who was the area’s leading receiver in football, anywhere from goalkeeper to forward.

“We’ve seen him progress from being a big, strong guy that could pressure a guy to a guy that can take players on with the ball,” Brower said. “We were looking for the best use for him and thought we’d try him up top, and he’s adapted well.”

Brower said his knowledge of Page High School is only word of mouth, but the word is that it’s an extremely rugged, physical team, which may or may not be good for a talented CCS team that has a lot of injured players.

“I’m not worried so much about them, but more about our boys at this point,” Brower said. “It’s the most injured we’ve been, yet our spirit and confidence is very high at this point.”

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports

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