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Panthers win Two Rivers Invitational for third straight year, Stewart MVP

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By Sharon Graves

The Carroll County Panthers faced the Louisville Evangel Christian School on the soccer field Saturday afternoon and rolled right over the Screaming Eagles, 8-0.

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The Panthers hosted the third annual Two Rivers Invitational tournament, made up of four teams, including Holmes of Northern Kentucky and Henry County in the second game, and a championship game topped off the evening beginning around 8:30 p.m.

After getting a late start, the Panthers scored four minutes into the contest off the sure foot of junior Jay Damron.  Less than two minutes later Panther sophomore Michael Hall nearly scored again, but the ball went slightly wide.  Senior Sergio Pascual did put the ball into the net with 31 minutes left in the first half, bringing the score 2 – 0. 

Head coach Ben Crutcher began a mass substitution two minutes later after the Panthers showed they were in control.

The Screaming Eagles made it into Panther territory several times in the first half, but were unable to convert. 

Hall was all alone in the Panther end zone with only the goalie between him and another point on the board, but was again unable to score.

Senior Devon Gray was successful in his effort to put points on the board when he scored with just under 18 minutes left in the first half. 

With the Panthers up 3-0 they began to get a little lackadaisical, and Crutcher began to get frustrated.  “Somebody step up,” he yelled from the sidelines.

Junior Brandon Stewart did step up several minutes later as he drove the ball deep into Panther territory, but with no result. 

Crutcher sent in senior Kaleb Nab to replace fellow senior Junior Martinez and two minutes later sophomore Taylor Byrd scored one of his three goals off an assist by Damron to end the first half 4-0.

During half time, Crutcher told his team they did good the first ten minutes of the game, but then became sloppy for a long stretch.  You began to play kickball, he told his team.  “If you don’t have the shot, drop it back.  It’s okay to go backwards if itmeans you go forward.”

Crutcher told his team he wanted two quick goals in the second half and then he’d sub out a lot of players. 

Less than two minutes into the second half the Panthers gave Crutcher what he wanted when Martinez scored pulling the Panthers further ahead, 5-0. 

The Screaming Eagles had a pile up deep in their own territory and then Denis Perez, the only freshman on the Panther squad, took a header setting up Stewart for the score with just a few minutes off the clock pushing the Panthers further out front, 6-0.

A terrific pass play from Byrd to Stewart netted no score, and a goal kick by the Eagles was also fruitless.  On the kick, Panther goalie Michael Hedges made a risky play coming way out of the end zone, but the Screaming Eagles did not recognize the mismatch and could not score.

Five minutes later Byrd scored again on a free kick, and the mass substitution Crutcher promised his Panthers began in earnest. 

After several attempts with no joy, the Panthers finally scored when Pascual finally connected bringing the Panthers to what would be the final score of 8 – 0. 

Following the win, Crutcher said it was a pretty good game.  Crutcher had high praise for starters Byrd, Hall and Stewart and also praised his subs for a great job as well.  We’ve been focusing on fundamentals and it shows, Crutcher said.  “This was a great team effort.”