Freeman hat trick leads Marion past Elizabethton

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   'Betsy averted a shutout in the final minute of play, but couldn't withstand a three-goal hat trick by junior Bryan Freeman as Marion, Va. rode his scoring attack to a 4-1 triumph over the Elizabethton Cyclones at Brown-Childress Stadium on Tuesday night.
   On the sideline during the early portion of the game, Marion head coach Jim Gates had decided to play with a strong wind at his teams' back in the first half, saying, "I only hope we get a couple of goals with the wind, because those guys will be tough if we don't."
   The Scarlet Hurricanes did just that, getting on the board quickly with Freeman booting a left-footed shot home at the six-minute mark of play. The play came quickly as Freeman jumped on a crossing pass, as 'Betsy was about to turn upfield offensively, at about the 20-yard line and let fly.
   The ball beat Cyclone goalkeeper David Poston to his low right, and staked Marion to a 1-0 advantage.
   That advantage ballooned to 2-0 when Jeff Freeman put up a corner kick that was drilled home by yet another Freeman, this one named Nelson, who headed the ball past a diving Poston.
   "I thought it was a deciding factor in the game," replied Gates, when asked how big was his club's two-goal halftime lead. "Freeman played extremely well I thought, and we kept enough pressure on Elizabethton to not let them think offensively as much as they wanted to. I think at times they tried to do too much with the ball."
   In the first half Marion had five shots on goal to just two for 'Betsy, as the Cyclone setup passes were always a bit too long or too wide for their target, it seemed.
   "We were long on our corner kicks all night," said Cyclone head coach Bill McClay, whose team falls to 0-3 on the young season. "I think the team realizes as a whole that they have to step forward. We didn't make good decisions and didn't have good touches on our first touch of the ball."
   The Cyclones were stonewalled in two solid scoring attempts by Marion senior keeper Bill Gotham, who turned away a point-blank shot by John David Jativa early on that frustrated EHS a bit.
   Minutes later Freeman tallied his first goal, and the early Cyclone momentum had slipped away.
   The second half gave the 'wind advantage' to the Cyclones, but again two golden scoring chances went by the boards as Jativa was robbed twice in a two-minute span. His first shot hit the left goalpost from a difficult angle and then he just didn't quite get enough on a header shot that Gotham handled easily.
   "I thought a couple of those header's would go in," said McClay. "We didn't get a whole lot of good shots, but for most of the second half we played in their end."
   Luke Carrier narrowly missed a goal on a header off a corner shot by Michael Tierney, but the Cyclone mis-fortune got worse in a hurry.
   After a shot by Jonathan Cook was handled by Gotham, Jeff Freeman looped a long pass across the field to Bryan Freeman, who was now on a breakaway.
   Poston came out to cut the angle, but Freeman got enough of a kick on the ball to trickle it across the goal line and stake Marion to a 3-0 lead at the 10 minute mark of the second half.
   With their collective backs to the wall the Cyclones tried to mount an attack, but Marion was able to contain the ball in the midfield most of the time and work the clock.
   At the three minute mark of regulation Freeman struck again, this time unassisted and the Scarlet Hurricanes could rest easy with a season opening win.
   "I had no idea I had a hat trick," said Freeman. "I only had four goals all last year. This is the first year I have been able to start. I'm a junior this year. That first goal was a great shot, it's one that you dream about. I got good leg on the left foot and I'm a righty, so it felt good."
   Tierney put in a goal in the last minute of play for EHS, with an assist by Carrier.