By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It was not an overly convincing win, but North Laurel’s 4-1 decision over Middlesboro Tuesday moves them into uncommon territory.
“The first region win in a long time, so obviously we feel good about that,” North Laurel coach Mark Acampa said. It was the first region tournament game win since 1992, when the Jaguars finished runners-up in the region during the school’s first year as a program.
The Jaguars were scheduled to meet Corbin in Thursday’s 13th Region Championship game. It was the eighth straight win for North Laurel, which includes a 2-0 win over the Redhounds in the 49th District championship game.
“Obviously we are happy to get a win,” Acampa said. “We didn’t play as well as we want, but we also tried to do some things for some of the players. We had a few players out of position.”
The Jaguars did juggle the lineup to try and allow different players to score. Acampa thought his team seemed a little flat before any changes were made.
“I think it was a combination. They definitely came out flat,” Acampa said. “We quickly went back to the way it should have been.”
The Jaguars did jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first half, beginning with a Keaton Kennedy goal. Kennedy weaved his way through traffic from midfield before burying the shot 7:30 into the match.
Levi Seidel quickly made it 2-0. Seidel shielded the defense with his body and hooked in a shot from the box.
It started to look like a rout when Kennedy scored on a penalty kick with 21:25 in the half after being taken down in the box. Middlesboro did not concede the match.
“They are a great team. They have a lot of class. They have definitely improved,” Acampa said.
With 17:33 in the half, the Yellowjackets got on the board. A push in the box gave Jordan Wilson a free kick, which he made for a 3-1 score.
“It was too bad that we had a guy take a PK on us because (keeper) Nick (Herrmann) has been doing such a great job and I felt bad putting him in that situation,” Acampa said.
The Jaguars would fire eight shots on goal in the second half, but only one found its mark. With 7:20 to play, Josh Carter found an opening in front of the goal and took it. The 4-1 score would be the same as the previous meeting with Middlesboro. The first meeting this season at North Laurel was a 10-0 Jaguars’ win.
“They are a very well-coached team and they have a lot of speed. I think our guys had a little trouble getting deep on them because they were always back there,” Acampa said. “They kept us from getting some of the good shots we would have liked, so hats off to them.”
North Laurel’s record improves to a region’s best 14-4. One of those losses was a 5-4 decision to Corbin in a shootout. That loss was avenged in the district finals. The stakes are higher for the third match, but Acampa is confident his team is ready.
“I believe in them. I think they are a great group,” Acampa said.
The Jaguars were expected to get the day off Wednesday to prepare for the rematch with Corbin.
“Maybe some light kicking, but today was a good workout. I want to prepare them mentally more than anything,” Acampa said.