One of the first things that stands out about the Ooltewah soccer team is the size and strength of two of their senior captains on both ends of the field.
Forward Braeden Haynes has posed an incredibly difficult task for defenders this season, which he proved again with a hat trick and an assist in Tuesday's 7-2 Region 3-AAA semifinals home rout of Warren County.
Versatile center back Connor Moser also brings toughness to the pitch whether winning a ball in the air to clear a dangerous look away or finding space up the field to attack and unleash a powerful shot.
Between Moser and Haynes, the 6-foot soccer stars have combined for 35 goals as Ooltewah (14-1) has outscored its competition an astronomical 62-9 this season. Since a 3-2 loss earlier this season to Cleveland, Rick Adolph's team has won nine straight in which they have a 42-5 scoring advantage.
"From the front line all the way to the back we have all been playing really well," said Moser who is signed to play soccer at Shorter University. "We can score a lot of goals and can keep them away. Our midfield keeps the ball moving really well. When we play like we are capable, we can beat any team in Tennessee I think."
Ooltewah will face Cleveland again on Thursday at noon for the region title after beating them 3-o for the district championship. The Owls' 14 wins is the most since 2012 in a 15-win season which ended with a 1-0 loss to Riverdale in the state sectionals.
For Haynes — who is signed to kick at the Division I football level for Morehead State — the team's leading scorer with 22 goals believes his experienced and talented team could accomplish history.
"With COVID last year we didn't get a season, so for the seniors we really wanted to prove ourselves and show off our game this year," said Haynes, who in the span of 40 seconds Tuesday sent a line-drive assist to the right post for Jack Pectol to score on before overpowering the keeper for a score to take a 3-0 lead.
"We really want to make it to state and win a championship," Haynes added. "Our whole starting lineup plays club soccer for the Red Wolves or CFC. We have a really strong connection that shows on the field. We trust each other and always have each other's backs."
Other standouts for the Owls include senior defenders and speedsters Jaxson Antuna and Rumen Pollard, brothers Josh and Jack Pectol along with Ajay Smith and keeper Will Tym.
Ooltewah now hopes to cross off their goal of a region championship and then win its weekend sub state match to punch their ticket to the Spring Fling.
"Even our smaller guys play like they are really big, which helps us out a lot," Moser added. "We come out every game and play very physical. My goal was to be playing our best soccer in the postseason. We just have to keep rolling."
3 takeaways from Tuesday:
For the second straight day Rhea County's football staff benefitted from another area team's loss when Mark Wattenbarger announced his resignation after three seasons at Sequatchie County and that he planned to join Rhea County's staff as an offensive assistant. On Monday, Derrick Davis stepped down after two seasons as McMinn Central's coach and intended to accept an offer to take a job as a defensive assistant for the Eagles.
Wattenbarger compiled a 16-17 overall record at Sequatchie, going 8-4 in his first season and 6-5 the next, with playoff losses to Red Bank each of those years. Last year, injuries took a toll and the Indians finished 2-8. The string of injuries included having five players go down in one 12-minute span.
Nothing But Net
Former Brainerd High and Tuskegee University star athlete Kenneth Henderson is hoping his new business venture — the Nothing But Net basketball training facility, which opened last weekend — will help elevate the postseason fortunes of local prep basketball athletes and teams.
Loosely modeled after D-1 Fitness, which has become the gold standard for football training throughout the Volunteer State and beyond, Nothing But Net opened last weekend with a one-month membership that comes with every-day access of $160. The first session for anyone is free. Those who are interested in learning more should go to nothingbutnetchatt.com or call 423-856-9315.
Heroes of the night
Senior Tyson Campbell knocked in the game-winning goal at the far right post off a perfectly placed header coming off a free kick in overtime to lift Boyd Buchanan to a 1-0 win over Goodpasture in the Division II-A state tournament.
Mats Dammann had a hat trick in the first half scoring three times in Signal Mountain's5-0 win over Community in the Region 3-A semifinals. Howard's Amos Vyizigro also turned a hat trick in his team's 5-0 win over Sequoyah.
Tuesday prep scoreboard
Region 3-AAA semifinals
Ooltewah 7, Warren County 2
Cleveland 2, Rhea County 1 (OT)
Region 3-AA semifinals
Signal Mountain 5, Community 0
Arts & Sciences 3, Cascade 1
Region 4-AA semifinal
Howard 5, Sequoyah 0
Division II-A state quarterfinal
Boyd Buchanan 1, Goodpasture 0
Division II-AA state quarterfinals
Ensworth at Baylor (DH), 4
Region 3-A championship
Gordonsville at South Pittsburg, 7
Region 3-AA championship
Signal Mountain at Hixson, 6:30
Region 3-AAA championship
McMinn County at Bradley Central, 7
Region 2-A championship
Oliver Springs at Sale Creek, 6
Region 3-AA championship
Meigs County at Red Bank, 5:30
Region 4-AA championship
Sequatchie County at Upperman
Region 3-AAA championship
White County at Soddy-Daisy, 6
Division II-A state quarterfinals
Boyd Buchanan at Columbia Academy
Goodpasture at Silverdale Baptist