STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTO BY CARL EDMONDSON JR.
Brentwood is off to its best start since 2012.
That’s a good sign for the Bruins because they were Class AAA soccer champions that year.
Powered by 12 seniors, Brentwood is 9-0-1 with a 4-0-0 record in District 11-AAA as of Wednesday.
“We’re strong defensively with our first string giving up eight goals and the max in a game is two,” Bruins coach Mike Purcell said. “Both (of those were against) Rossview on restarts on direct kids and they had a kid that was just terrific. Scored a couple of goals.”
Rossview (9-3-2) tied Brentwood 2-2 last Thursday in a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal won by the Bruins.
“But from the field we don’t give up a whole lot during the run of play,” Purcell said. “I’ve got a solid defense and I’ve also got two freshmen starting on defense, which is very unusual, but they’re really strong players.”
Carter Patton and Reid McAdams are the freshmen starters.
“The defense and midfield play has been strong and, of course, we’re not scoring as many as I’d like to, but we scoring enough to win and I guess you’ve got to be satisfied with that,” Purcell said. “We’d like to be able to finish better. We’re getting a lot of shots. We’ve got to put them into the goal instead of into the keeper or off the bar or post.”
Senior goalkeeper Jake Severino, an all-state player last season, has recorded three shutouts.
“We’ve had two freshmen step up and be extremely solid all year,” Severino said. “Carter Patton is probably our top defender.”
Patton fills the void left by former center back Jack Lippe, the 2018 district defensive MVP who is now a Rhodes freshman.
Brentwood set the defensive tone early with shutout wins over Oakland and Ravenwood in its first two games.
Seniors Clay Thompson and Michael Burke have been played well in the back.
Center-midfielder Sam Komtchenko, a Rhodes signee, is the Bruins’ leading scorer with four goals and seven assists.
Brentwood clinched the district title with a 6-1 win at Summit on Tuesday.
“Since I’ve been a freshman, we’ve never won the district in the regular season and to win it with even a game to spare has been awesome,” Severino said. “Every year we’ve been between second and fourth in our district. Franklin and Ravenwood have always come out on top, but this year it was awesome. Undefeated season so far an all wins in our district.”
Khomtchenko hopes the Bruins are just getting started.
“I think we can definitely make a deep run,” Khomtchenko said. “I mean, obviously, the goal is state championship and I think we’re completely capable of that.”
Purcell knows a lot about winning. The 17-year veteran boasts a 280-34-54 record with three state titles.
A Father Ryan graduate, he attended school there before the Fighting Irish had a soccer team. Purcell played at Peabody College, which became part of Vanderbilt in 1979.
District 11-AAA continues to be one of the state’s most difficult leagues.
“Right now, you go us, Franklin, Centennial, Ravenwood and even Summit is playing well,” Purcell said. “There’s always a heated battle to get out of our district tournament. It doesn’t matter how you finish in the regular season.
“We often have a district semifinal round of four teams where all four of them are good enough to go to state. We have some absolutely terrific soccer teams in the district.”
Brentwood returns five starters from last year’s state semifinal team.
Naseem Abusalim has scored five goals and Blake Chalfant has two game-winning goals. Christian Nelson’s header with 23 second left gave Brentwood a 2-1 win over Independence early in the month.
Freshman midfielder Forrest Wells has four assists.
Brentwood earned a big district win with a 2-1 victory over Franklin on April 9.
“I thought they were organized and they have a really good keeper,” Rebels coach Mike Burgoyne said. “Defensively, they were pretty stout and they also have a really good midfield.”
Burgoyne said the Bruins capitalized on their opportunities whereas his team didn’t or Brentwood simply stopped the Rebels.
Having a veteran crew is a big plus for the Bruins.
“We all hang out together and have great chemistry,” Komtchenko said. “All of us are solid leaders and we all have the same goal to win a state championship and lead our team to that.”