Dayton, Tenn. – Both Bryan College and Bob Jones University (S.C.) entered Thursday night with a clean slate, having yet to see regular-season action, but it was the Lions men's soccer team who prevailed and chalked up a win to kick-off the 2017 season at home.
It came as no surprise that Bryan looked completely in control the majority of the game having received a No. 11 ranking in the 2017 NAIA Men's Soccer Coaches' Preseason Top-25 Poll, released Aug. 15. The Lions distributed the ball well, giving way to a trio of individuals finding the back of the goal for an early 3-0 first-half lead. As the second half got underway, Bryan managed to go ahead 4-0 before Bob Jones broke the silence with their lone score of the contest. With less than three minutes left to play, the Lions continued to extend the lead and hold off the Bruins for a 5-1 victory.
It only took 3:53 for the Lions to claw their way onto the scoreboard when junior forward Charlie Clarke (JR/Norwich, England) led the attack and was cut off, managed to find Rhea County native Jonathan Ricketts (SO/Dayton, Tennessee) in the box, and after losing a defender Ricketts completed the give-and-go by connecting with Clarke for first goal of the game.
The barrage of looks were relentless for Bryan as they endlessly maintained possession and threatened Bob Jones with frequent shot attempts. Joe Goreham (JR/Norwich, England) got his turn to separate the Lions from the Bruins after receiving a pass from Dino Jones (JR/Manchester, England) in the 12th-minute for a 2-0 advantage.
Reigning Appalachian Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, Brad Spooner (SO/Norwich, England), proved to be an impact player once again as a sophomore when he went unassisted and slotted a shot past the outstretched hands of Bob Jones' keeper, Andrew Kester, putting the Lions on top 3-0.
When taking the field in the second half, the Bruins showed fatigue but there was no sign of the Lions slowing down as freshman Aaron Attree (FR/Norwich, England) aided by hitting Kevin Roenpage (SR/Bremen, Germany) in a counter attack. Spooner took off down the left side of the box, presenting Roenpage with an option, but Roenpage hesitated to produce space before picking up an assist on Spooner's team-leading second goal.
With 10 minutes remaining, Bob Jones were still scoreless as Bryan led 4-0, but in the 81st-minute the Bruins avoided the blanking when Danyon Moore corralled the ball and made a push before being stopped at the top of the box. It seemed as if Moore had no place to go until fellow teammate, Jared Simmons, made a cut. Simmons gathered the ball, took a look, and sent a strike to the right side of the goal to cut the deficit to 4-1.
Bryan owned a comfortable lead and took the opportunity to send fresh legs on the pitch. The momentum built by the starters was contagious as Jordan Lopez (FR/Cleveland, Tennessee), a freshman from Cleveland, Tenn., was awarded the assist after dishing a pass to Keith Lyons (JR/Dandridge, Tennessee) who knocked in the fifth and final goal for the Lions, sealing a 5-1 win.
The deadly combination of the Lion's attack and unwavering back line led to Bryan outshooting Bob Jones 27-1 with 10 on target. Kester allowed four goals and the Bruin's other keeper, Isaac Landry, had one goal slide past him. Alex Horton (JR/Nuneaton, England) started for Bryan in the net and went through 74 scoreless minutes before Alejandro Toro (JR/Cali, Colombia) took the reigns the last 15 minutes and surrendered one goal.
Following last year's dominating regular-season campaign where the Lions saw only one loss before heading into post-season play, Bryan picked up right where they left off with the overwhelming victory against Bob Jones. "It was good to see the boys come out and be successful on the offensive side of the ball and score some goals tonight," said Bryan Head Coach, Drew Courtney. "There are certainly some areas on both sides of the ball where we want to continue to improve but overall I was pleased with our effort and performance tonight."
With a win under the belt, the Lions now look to a pair of challenging top-15 showdowns on the road at No. 12 Thomas University (Ga.) on Aug. 26 at 12pm and No. 7 William Carey University (Miss.) Aug. 28 at 5pm.
To view the full 2017 men's soccer schedule, click here.
Follow Bryan Men's Soccer on Twitter @BCLionsMSoc.