MURFREESBORO – Over the weekend, the Fairview boys learned the news that junior Nate Phillips suffered a season-ending leg injury just days before the Yellow Jackets return to the Class AA state tournament for a second season in a row.
Phillips anchored the back line for Fairview (17-3-1) and without him, the Yellow Jackets had to do some last-minute shifting. By the end of Tuesday’s first round match against Loudon, all three team captains, including leading scorer Brandon Parrish, held the back row and freshman attacker Jose Perez helped offset some of the moves up front.
Fairview advanced to the state semifinals for a second season in a row, taking down Loudon 3-1. The win also avenged a loss to the same school in last year’s semis when the Yellow Jackets forfeited a 1-0 lead early and dropped a 2-1 decision to end their first state tournament run.
“Not this time,” Fairview coach Shane Smith said. “We felt that last year, we gave it away.
“Missing Nate was huge this time. It felt like we took a big deflation yesterday when we learned the news … but you know we had a talk with the boys and said, ‘You're going to have to step up. You're gonna have to step up huge.’ And I mean, I think all three captains did and then so did the rest of the team.”
Fairview advanced to state thanks to a penalty kick from Parrish in a wild 3-2 sectional win at home over White House. The two-time defending Region 6-AA champions will battle defending state champion Greeneville Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. for a shot at earning the school's first title shot.
“It’s pretty amazing to be back here,” Perez said of reaching the semis again. “We just have to keep pushing and we can set another school record.”
Perez gathered a ball from Parrish about 25 yards out and with Loudon keeper Noah Feezell opting to try and close the gap on the one-on-one matchup in the open field, Perez simply lofted the ball over the head Feezell and into the back of the net for the 1-0 advantage in the 35th minute.
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He later slipped a pass to Matthew Stevens on the move after swiping possession near midfield. Stevens went on to tally the back-breaker in the final five minutes to provide the final score. Those kind of plays from the freshman Perez come just over a week after being cleared to play. He suffered a broken ankle several months ago and has been slowly working back into playing condition.
“I think I’m going to be a little sore,” he said postgame. “I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me starting, but it made me more motivated to work harder. I’m just happy to be playing with the guys, again.”
Leading 1-0 to open the second half, Parrish scored in the 52nd to give the Yellow Jackets a brief two-goal cushion. Less than two minutes after the corner kick tally by Parrish, Fransisco Aguilera slipped a ball over Fairview keeper Max Cole-Staley to make it 2-1.
Cole-Staley did stop eight balls, including two shots in the final minute in front of the goal. Ethan Shelley, Parrish and Stevens all helped alleviate the Loudon pressure late.
“After we heard the tragic news about Nate, we all we knew we just head to get back out there and get our jobs done,” Shelley said. “I think that one goal was just kind of a mental error.”
Shelley shifted over from the right back position and Stevens moved into center mid, while Parrish drifted back as well over the last half of the second 40 minutes.
“We told Matthew just to kick it up if he needed to, you know, not play really anything back and then he ended up breaking free for us in the end there,” Shelley said. “It felt good to get a little revenge on the team that knocked us out last year, but now we have to keep this momentum, and honestly, like I've said, just keep this mentality that we can play our game no matter what.”
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Greeneville (17-5-3) raced past Lexington 8-0 Tuesday with six goals in the first half and four in the opening 17 minutes. Devin Elyze-Vital scored the first three tallies for the Greene Devils and assisted on one more to lead the way. Greeneville out-shot Lexington (14-5) 25-4.
“It’s definitely a big game coming up, but we’ll just be ready and see how it goes,” Shelley said.
Fairview 3, Loudon 1, Class AA First Round
35:15 F – Jose Perez (unassisted);
51:48 F – Brandon Parrish (corner kick);
53:06 L – Fransisco Aguilera (unassisted);
75:26 F – Matthew Stevens (unassisted).
Goalie Saves – F (Max Staley-Cole) – 8; L (Noah Feezell) 4. Shots – F 12; L 15. Corners – F 4; L 2.