By Carey Phillips


East Lincoln jumped to an early lead Monday and went on to a 5-1 victory over Smoky Mountain in the first round of the state 3-A soccer playoffs at Denver.

The Mustangs finished the season 13-7-2.

“It was very sloppy play in the back,” Coach Stephen Brown said of the team’s issues. “We weren’t communicating. We made the necessary adjustments at halftime, but it was a day late and a dollar short. East Lincoln is a good team from a good conference. They took advantage of our issues in the first half.”

Aiden Morrison opened the scoring for East in the third minute.

“It was bad defending on our part,” Brown said. “The ball came in and we didn’t clean it up, and he was able to shoot it to the back post.”

The Mustangs drew even when Erick Flores scored a minute later.

“The ball came into their box, and they miscleared it,” Brown said. “Erick was able to steal it off one of their defender’s feet. He took one touch and shot. I thought we were going to be able to settle in at that point.”

East took the lead for good at 2-1 in the eighth minute when the SM defense mishandled a cross and Jackson Thrap scored.

Blake Swanson’s goal in the 12th minute upped the margin to 3-1.

“It was another misclearance that led to a goal,” Brown said. “We weren’t able to clear and, he scored from about 10 yards out.”

Tharp’s second goal from 18 yards away made it 4-1 in the 16th minute.

“Nobody stepped to him,” Brown said. “He had time and space.”

Landon Graden concluded the scoring in the 35th minute.

“The ball came across the 6, and he was able to finish it,” Brown said.

East dominated in shots 26-6, including 19-1 in the first half.

Carson Seagraves and Nathan Porter made six and two saves, respectively, for the Mustangs. East’s Braxton Reeves had two saves.

“It’s a tough one to end on, but this game is not going to define us,” Brown said.