By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
For those who thought North Laurel’s 1-0 win over South Laurel on September 24, the first for the Jaguars over the Cardinals since 2000, was a fluke, then Thursday night’s 4-0 Jaguar triumph in round two of the London Derby sent a loud statement.
“It shows North is for real,” Jaguar coach Mark Acampa said. “I know there were a lot of questions looking at our history, but this team has really come together and they are learning how to win and they are hungry for it.”
For South Laurel coach Amber Hensley, it was another frustrating game in what has turned out to be a disappointing season.
“Once again I told them at halftime that you can’t win by passing to the other team,” Hensley said. “It’s the fundamentals that are killing us.”
This game almost didn’t take place, as North Laurel originally canceled it in favor of playing Monticello, a game that was scheduled for last Monday but postponed due to heavy rain. The Jaguars rescheduled the Monticello game for Thursday in place of South Laurel. But the Cardinals made the Jaguars honor the game, so North played Monticello at 6 p.m., then headed over to South Laurel for an 8 p.m. match.
It would be South (4-10-1) getting the first good look at goal in the 7th minute when Noah Bronnert found Jacob Hubbuch, but his shot was just wide. A minute later, North’s first chance came when Sam Marcum’s shot was also wide of its mark.
The game remained scoreless until the 25th minute, when a shot by North’s Evan de la Pena beat keeper Carl David Weaver for a 1-0 lead. Dela Pena would leave the match four minutes later with an ankle injury.
North (11-4-0) made it 2-0 in the 30th minute when Keaton Kennedy’s shot from the right side found its way into the goal past Weaver at the far post. It was Kennedy’s first game back after having to sit for two games after being ejected in the first South Laurel game. It wouldn’t be the last time he would find the back of the net in this game.
But first, in the 43rd minute, Joshua Carter scored to up North’s lead to 3-0 as the Jaguars took firm control of the match.
South Laurel had two good chances in the second half, but keeper Nick Herrmann made sure neither went past him. In the 67th minute, Seth Hale’s free kick from around 40 yards was touched over the goal by Herrmann for a Cardinals cornerkick. Then in the 77th minute, a free kick from nearly the same distance, this time by Jacob Beckham, was again punched out by Herrmann.
In between those South chances came Kennedy’s second goal, a beautiful shot from 30 yards out that curved into the far post in the 71st minute for a 4-0 lead.
“I’m very impressed with the way we played tonight,” Acampa said. “We did what we had to do to win. To win here convincingly is a testament to our desire to win.”
“We had some good chances in the first half,” Hensley said. “But we’ve got to possess the ball and have better passes and movement without the ball. We know how to do that, but at times we panic and resort to playing boom ball.”
These two teams will meet again Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at South Laurel in the 49th District tournament. North comes in with the No. 2 seed but with the best record in the 13th Region. They are also riding a 5-game winning streak. Corbin plays Whitley County at 6 p.m. in the first game. The winners will meet Thursday night at 8 p.m. for the district title.