By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A 14-5 season, 49th District championship, and runner-up finish in the 13th Region Tournament is by all accounts a successful season for North Laurel soccer. It is likely the best in school history. The Jaguars had not played in a region final since the Kevin Taylor coached team of 1992-93.
But when the end came Thursday with a 1-0 loss to Corbin, it hurt.
“When it comes to (penalty kicks) it’s a coin toss. It could go either way. It seems like a terrible way to end a game,” North Laurel coach Mark Acampa said.
And to end a season.
North Laurel and Corbin played 80 scoreless minutes, followed by two scoreless 5-minute overtimes. The Jaguars missed all four penalty kick attempts. Corbin made its second and fourth attempts to end the marathon.
“I expected a battle,” Corbin coach Armando Cima said. “They have a good team and they play with heart.”
The teams split two previous meetings. Corbin won 5-4 in a regular-season match decided by a shootout. North Laurel prevailed 2-0 in the 49th District championship game.
“I thought in the district (championship) we didn’t play our game at all. Our game is possession and keeping it on the ground. They obviously play a more direct style and it benefits them to do that. To be honest, it kind of hurts us,” Cima said.
Thursday’s match would be an epic defensive struggle with shots limited and good shots rare. The Redhounds managed just two good looks in the first half. About 10 minutes into the match, a running shot by Robbie Lowe sailed right. With less than two minutes in the half, Tulio Canineu’s long shot missed high. The closest thing the Jaguars had to an attempt was a good crossing pass by Hunter Riley that did not result in a shot.
“I don’t think we played up to our potential tonight. Nerves maybe? Playing for the region championship, a place we’ve never been before?” Acampa said.
There would be more chances in the second half. The Redhounds fired three shots in less than five minutes. Then it was North Laurel’s Sam Marcum getting a through pass from Keaton Kennedy before he was shut off. Marcum got another chance with 32 minutes to play, but Corbin keeper Chase Adkins smothered the attempt.
The best chance for the Jaguars may have been with 24 minutes to play when Michael Sizemore seemed to have an opening after a cross from Marcum. Again Adkins closed the goal. Adkins would be named the tournament’s Defensive MVP.
“I thought we would be able to score a couple of goals. I was surprised it ended 0-0 and had to go to PK,” Acampa said.
Although the final minutes would be frantic, the defense of both teams controlled the action. It would continue to be the defense’s game through two scoreless overtimes.
“All I told the boys was if you don’t go into these overtimes with confidence, then you’ve not been awake during this game. I think we controlled the game and I think you have to look for things like that to build confidence on,” Cima said.
In the shootout, Keaton Kennedy took the first shot for North Laurel. His shot missed high. The Redhounds were not able to take advantage with Wayne Logan missing wide left.
Blake Nantz also missed to the left for North Laurel, to bring up Tulio Canineu for Corbin. Canineu, the Offensive MVP of the district tournament, would find the goal to the left of the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Sam Marcum’s shot was blocked by Adkins. Lucas Lay shot next for Corbin with keeper Nick Herrmann making a stop for the Jaguars. Nathan Carter tried to tie the score for North Laurel, but Adkins was there again for the block.
That brought up Corbin’s Jonathon Helton with a chance to end the marathon game, which he did with a solid kick.
“Hats off to Corbin, they played a great game tonight. Tonight, the way they moved the ball, was their best performance against us,” Acampa said.