SPORTS >> Lions nail down three-peat feat
FAYETTEVILLE – Searcy’s third-straight 6A state championship was hard won. In a very physical match, endurance was the team’s key component.
The Lions survived to beat 6A-East Conference foe Mountain Home 3-0 in a match Friday that was stopped three different times for injuries, including a harsh collision between Mountain Home goalkeeper Jake Bolt and Searcy junior Trey Oliveto in the sixth minute of the second half.
It came down to a trio of scattered Searcy goals, first by sophomore forward Steven Seitz in the first nine minutes of the game with the second goal coming from senior Jordan Smith less than two minutes later.
Senior defender Brandon West scored the final goal for the Lions in the 26th minute of the second half to earn MVP honors, as the Lions (20-0-2) coasted to their third-straight 6A title on Friday at Ladyback Soccer Field. It was the second straight year that they met the Bombers (15-4-1) in the state championship match.
“Our main objective was to come out and establish a game in our favor,” said Lions coach Bronco King. “And we did that. We kind of set the tone for how we were going to play. Plus the wet turf here, judging the ball and all of those things kind of had something to do with it also, but we were fortunate to get those goals there in the first half also.”
The game was full of physical play, resulting in two yellow cards shown to Mountain Home, and a red card given to Bombers midfielder Jake Strother in the 11th minute of the second half.
That physicality turned scary early in the second half, when Oliveto went for a shot at the goal at the same time that MH goalkeeper Bolt went diving for the save. The result was Oliveto’s knee meeting the back of Bolt’s head. Bolt went down and had to be carted off on a stretcher.
“It seemed like once Jake got hurt, we didn’t pick it back up for a while,” said Bombers coach Bryan Mattox. “Then we got the red card, and it seemed like things just went down hill from there. They deserve it. (Searcy) is a great team. To win three in a row, that takes something special.”
Searcy finished with eight shots on goal and eight corner kicks, while the Bombers had four shots on goal and three corner kicks.
“It feels pretty good, because we’ve had a bull’s eye on our chest all year long,” said King. “People have given us their best shot. The kids didn’t need much talking to for them to get ready every game. They knew that they were going to be marked.”