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The final score is not a true indicator of what really happened Tuesday night between the Carroll County and Simon Kenton boys soccer teams. The Panthers may have lost 5-3 to the visitors from Northern Kentucky, but the home team played tough the entire night against their much bigger opponent. Not only is Simon Kenton a 6A-size school in football, many of its players are more than a head taller than the Carroll County players.
“I thought we played phenomenal,” head coach Ben Crutcher said, “considering we have one starter out to an ankle injury, and we had a couple playing hurt.” SeniorMark Ogburn was out after an injury against Owen County Saturday.
Crutcher said that what impressed him the most was that the Panthers matched the Pioneers step for step, tying the game at 1-1, then 2-2, before taking the lead at 3-2 in the 22nd minute of the second half. “We just ran out of gas,” he said. “We played hard; we did the best we could. They just have a deeper bench and more in the reserve tank.”
Seeing his team’s determination showed him that they really wanted to win the game. “What it shows me is this team has a lot of heart and integrity, and we will be just fine in district play,” Crutcher said.
Carroll County and Simon Kenton played each other even through the first 20 minutes. The Pioneers scored in the 24th minute off a header by Brent Russell that bounced off the goalpost and into the goal. From there, the visitors kept the ball mostly in Carroll County’s side of the field, but the Panthers defense stepped up and kept them out.
In the 37th minute, the Panthers got on the board. Senior Michael Hall made a long throw in from the left sideline. The ball bounced off a Simon Kenton player, and senior Cody Cruz was there to hit the ball with his body into the goal, tying the game.
Out of the half, Simon Kenton came out firing, taking three shots on goal in the first three minutes. In the eighth minute, Tyler Mathis scored to give Simon Kenton the lead. On the next play, the Pioneers stole the tip and took a shot on goal, but sophomore keeper Cody Damron was there for the save. Carroll took the ball down the field, and Hall took a shot from outside the box, but it was blocked.
In the 11th minute, freshman David Marshall ripped another shot from even further outside and scored, as the ball went right through the keeper’s hands, 2-2.
The Pioneers threatened in the 18th minute as a handball penalty in the box earned them a penalty kick, but Damron made a diving save to keep the game tied. About four minutes later, Simon Kenton was called offside, and Damron sent the ball into Pioneer territory. The ball took a favorable Carroll County bounce, and Hall scored to give his team the lead, 3-2.
The Panthers held the lead for about six minutes before Simon Kenton scored on a cross to Nick Callahan, 3-3. A couple minutes later, Damron made a save, but the ball fell from his hands and rolled out of bounds, setting up Simon Kenton for a corner kick. On two straight kicks, Carroll County junior Denis Perez headed the ball out of bounds, but the third time was the charm, as Corey Knaley headed the ball in, 4-3.
The final goal of the game came in the 37th minute, as Corey Graham scored off another corner kick. After that, Crutcher made a mass substitution and got many of his starters out of the game.
Crutcher said he thought the team played very solid defense and did a good job of talking and running back on transition. He could definitely see all the progress they had made since playing North Oldham Aug. 27.
“For us to come out and compete against a solid school like Simon Kenton, that says a lot about how we played,” he said. “(Tyler Tuttle) played like a man with a purpose. I was really pleased with Tyler Stewart and Michael Hedges. They played so hard and did everything they could.”
In the post-game huddle, Crutcher said there were no heads held low because the team recognized that they had played well and given all their effort.
“I think we can build upon this for sure,” Crutcher said.