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D-B outlasts Science Hill in match benefiting Smelser

Tanner Cook • Mar 20, 2019 at 1:02 AM

JOHNSON CITY — On Tuesday night at Kermit Tipton Stadium, the Dobyns-Bennett boys soccer team came out with a 4-2 win over Science Hill, but there was a bigger purpose being served than just a soccer match.

The proceeds went to help out the family of beloved area soccer coach Michael Smelser, who suffered second- and third-degree burns on his lower body. Before the game, a check for $10,000 was given to Smelser’s wife, Betsy, to help out with the medical bills.

“Michael is a great guy, especially when it comes to soccer in this area,” Dobyns-Bennett coach Tom LaGuardia. “I can’t say enough about the quality of Mike and the strength he has. He’s one of a kind and I would venture to say that 95 percent of the people in his condition would not be walking the halls of the rehab center as he is doing.

“Those of us that know him, we know that he’s going to be back. ... Michael has shown that he wants this entire community to be elevated through the game. His love for the game shows no boundaries.”

Science Hill (0-1) came out aggressive, but it was a sloppy first half by David Strickland’s squad.

D-B struck first when Maddox Devinney scored on an assist from Spencer Correll in the 29th minute.

But just a few moments before, the momentum looked like it was going to swing Science Hill’s way after the Hilltoppers were presented with a penalty kick after a foul inside the box. But Jacob Park — who finished with 12 saves — stopped the kick cold when he correctly guessed left.

“You have to be confident every time you step up for the penalty,” Park said. “You’re not just doing it for the save, you’re doing it for your teammates. I want to keep everything out of the net. ... I thought it was a great moment for us because it got our momentum back.”

Midfielder Sam Garcia — wearing Smelser’s No. 8 jersey from when he played at D-B — scored two goals, one in the 78th minute that pretty much sealed the deal.

“Sam was very sharp for us tonight,” LaGuardia said. “It was a little bit of a way to help Michael find his way back to the field tonight with Sam wearing his old jersey.”

After Garcia scored his first goal, Nick Cahoon rocketed one in past Park from nearly 30 yards away to draw the ’Toppers closer at 2-1 as the half came to an end.

“I thought it was really a tale of two halves,” Strickland said. “Sometimes when you get too aggressive and you don’t think about what you’re doing, things get sloppy. I felt like the first 40 minutes we weren’t completing more than two or three passes. Then in the second half, we had the ball more and were in control. ... They did a good job finishing their chances. We played well, but that’s the way game is sometimes. It just doesn’t bounce your way.”

The Tribe came out the second half and put the third goal on the board when Correll tapped one over Halden Vega’s head in the 49th minute.

Patrick Brown had the answer for Science Hill in the 49th minute when he scored on a mad scramble after a corner in the 55th minute.

Correll would have had one more goal in the 79th, but it was disallowed because of offsides on the set pieces.

“At the end of the day, they scored more goals than we did,” Strickland said. “Park was on fire tonight and my hats off.

“Michael and I have been friends for 30 some years. He’s a beast of an athlete. He has a burning passion and it is really for youth. If you look at his record, everything he does is to help the kids. That says a lot about him as a human being.

“This game is fun, but life can be so tough sometimes and I hope tonight made even the tiniest difference,” Strickland added.