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It was a very physical and tense-at-times match, but the Panthers soccer team outscored the visiting Spencer County Bears 6-2 to win on senior night, Sept. 25.
“I was very happy for all of our seniors,” head coach Ben Crutcher said. “They all contributed to this win tonight.”
The Panthers will graduate five seniors who have all played huge roles in the squad’s success this year: Jacob Beach, Jay Damron, Josh McCarty, Chase Osborne and Brandon Stewart.
Crutcher said Beach played solid defense on the back line, while Stewart excelled offensively, scoring two goals. A scout from Spalding University came to watch Damron play, and Crutcher said he believes Damron played well, especially in distributing the ball. The head coach said Osborne played exceptionally well on defense and also had two assists, and McCarty also did a great job on defense and racked up two goals and an assist.
While this was the seniors’ final regular-season home game, the team has the opportunity to play a first-round 8th Region tournament game at Panther Field if they win the 31st District tournament.
Carroll scored its first goal about six minutes in, as Osborne made one of his patented long throw-ins from the sideline in front of the goal. Junior Michael Hall was in perfect position to receive the pass and score.
The Bears answered in the 11th minute, as sophomore Bradley Reynolds scored on a penalty kick after a handball in the box, 1-1.
In the 17th minute, Hall delivered a through pass to Stewart, who scored in the right corner of the goal, 2-1.
While Carroll stayed on the offensive most of the first half, Spencer made a couple good runs, including one with about eight minutes to go in the half. Spencer kicked the ball over Carroll’s midfield and took a shot on goal. The shot was high and freshman goalie Cody Damron was able to deflect the ball up and over the net.
Soon after, McCarty centered a pass from the right side to Hall for the score, 3-1.
As the seconds wound down, Carroll struck once more as junior Mark Ogburn sent a cross from the right side to Stewart for the goal.
Carroll led 4-1 at the half and opted to change up their lineup to start the second half. Crutcher moved junior Cody Cruz up to the front line with Hall to put two strikers up top.
But the Bears took advantage of the fact the Panthers had one less defender, and senior Brandon Taylor scored within the first seven minutes, 4-2.
Crutcher quickly reverted back to his normal 4-5-1 formation after the goal. He said he decided to try a different alignment because it’s never clear when a change is needed. It all depends on the opponent.
Things started to get scrappy as the second half wore on.
Stewart was called for a foul on Spencer senior Tyler Ratchford, who retaliated by kicking Stewart and then cursing at him on the field. Ratchford was immediately given a red card and ejected from the game, putting Spencer down one player.
About halfway through the half, Spencer senior Josh Ferency also was given a red card after taking McCarty out with a slide tackle.
Both Ratchford and Ferency must miss their team’s next two games because of the red card.
With about seven minutes remaining, Crutcher put McCarty in at striker for Hall. Soon after, he scored off a long throw-in by Osborne, 5-2. He scored again on an assist by Alex Burns, 6-2.
Crutcher said he was happy with the boys’ overall teamwork. “Very pleased with the way we held our composure when they made some cheap shots on us.”
He was especially happy with McCarty. “He got fouled a couple of times, and he held his composure, which he’d had trouble with in the past.”
Crutcher said he could not remember the last time the Panthers won on senior night. “All of our seniors played exceptional tonight.”