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Elbows flying, tempers flaring, tension mounting. Add in a dash of late-game heroics, and it must be a Carroll/Gallatin game.
About a minute into the second five-minute overtime, senior Josh McCarty delivered a beautiful, high and deep throw-in from the right sideline toward the goal. The ball bounced over several players, and junior Taylor Byrd was in the right place at the right time, nudging the ball into the goal to beat the visiting Wildcats 2-1 Thursday night.
Things did not start out so well for the Panthers, however.
Despite reminders during the pre-game huddle of the importance of this game against their district rival, Carroll was behind on the scoreboard almost immediately. About 30 seconds in, Gallatin drove the ball straight down the field, sticking a shot from the right side into the left corner of the goal.
But the Panthers did not get discouraged. The ball found a home in Wildcat territory for much of the match, but the Panthers could not take advantage of the opportunities. The team had multiple shots on goal in the first half, including a shot by senior Chase Osborne that the Gallatin keeper managed to tip up and over the goal.
“We definitely need some work on finishing,” head coach Ben Crutcher said. “We had a lot of scoring opportunities that we, once again, couldn’t convert on. My assistant coach said it’s the law of averages, one is bound to drop eventually.”
Crutcher said they worked on finishing drills a little bit in practice the night before, but the team was still dragging fromplaying four games in four days — two games Saturday, one Monday and one Tuesday — and did not want to overdo it. “I do like the fact that we’re shooting, lots of shots,” he said. “We’re getting lots of looks, lots of opportunities. That’s a lot better this time around than last year, I know we struggled with that last year, so we’ll just have to see how we improve.”
As the whistle blew to begin the second half, it felt like déjà vu, as the Wildcats took the ball straight down the field once again and took a shot on goal. Fortunately for the Panthers, the ball sailed over the goal and out of bounds.
After a first half of aggressive play between both teams, the head referee decided to crack down. He administered a yellow card to McCarty at about the four-minute mark for unsportsmanlike conduct for allegedly talking back to him after a controversial foul call was made against Carroll’s Michael Hall. A few minutes later, Byrd was assessed the same yellow card for allegedly talking back to the referee.
Things finally began to swing back in Carroll’s favor about midway through the half. Senior Jay Damron and a Gallatin player jumped for a header, and Gallatin was called for a foul. Damron lined up for the direct kick and sent it straight through the middle of the defense, hitting the goalie and bouncing in the goal to tie the game, 1-1.
Both teams frantically tried to put in the game-winning goal, but came up short. Carroll freshman Paul Cuevas was administered a yellow card with 15 seconds remaining for allegedly slide tackling a Gallatin player from behind.
After a short break, both teams took the field for the first five-minute overtime period. Neither team scored, so the game went into its final five-minute overtime when Byrd hit the game-winning goal. Had neither team scored, the game would have been determined by penalty kicks.
“Wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve played but it’s always a close game with Gallatin County being a rival,” Crutcher said. “It was a hard-fought game, aggressively played by both sides. The refs let it play a little too loose in my opinion.
“Great effort by Taylor Byrd, never giving up, always playing hard, finishing. Good work by our defense. I really thought Jacob Beach played a solid job back there on the d-line.”
With the win, Carroll is now 2-0 in district, 2-1 in conference play.
Crutcher said he hopes by giving his team Friday, Saturday and Sunday off that they will be ready to come back strong Monday for practice.
The Panthers will be away on a three-game road trip with games at Covington Latin (Aug. 28), Henry County (Aug. 30) and Gallatin County (Sept. 4) before returning home Sept. 6 against Frankfort.