LONDON — After 60 minutes of play, the crosstown soccer showdown between North Laurel and South Laurel was still in doubt.
The Cardinals held a slim 1-0 edge against their rivals, but North Laurel was hanging tough thanks to one of its best defensive efforts of the season.
But things changed quickly once Zach Smart converted with a penalty kick to give the Cardinals a 2-0 edge.
The momentum shifted to South Laurel, and Joey Marcum’s squad added two more goals to pick up a 4-0 victory.
“We knew they (North Laurel) would be very well prepared and they were,” Marcum said. “They played a heck of a match. I thought we were able to play smarter in the second half, and I thought we attacked better. I also thought we had a few more legs we could use and that helped.”
Marcum said Smart’s penalty kick turned out to be a game-changer.
“I thought it was big. It gave us a boost of momentum,” he admitted. “We’ve had problems this season with overplaying. We would get beat by playing too deep and then making mistakes. So tonight we tried to play smart, move the ball, advance the ball and then when the opportunity is there, make something happen. After that goal, I thought everyone had a little bit more energy.”
North Laurel coach David Broyles said he was pleased with his team’s effort, and felt Smart’s penalty kick took the wind out of his team’s sails.
“We had played so hard and battled so hard. It kind of hurt us a little bit,” he said. “I thought we battled really hard and possessed the ball well. I thought we controlled the game but it didn’t show on the scoreboard. We are still struggling to score.
“Our passing has gotten better and our communication has gotten better,” Broyles added. “We are building toward the tournament. We will learn from our losses and continue to get better.”
Marcum said he had concerns coming into the game with his team coming off a week break.
“That’s the longest break we’ve ever had and it kind of made me nervous,” he admitted.
The game was a defensive battle until the 23rd minute when Smart headed a shot past North Laurel keeper Henry Chappell to give his team a 1-0 edge.
The game remained tight until Smart’s penalty kick during the 60th minute gave the Cardinals some breathing room at 2-0.
Quinn Rison’s goal during the 64th minute combined with Will McCowan’s goal during the 75th minute wrapped up the win for South Laurel.
The Cardinals (3-2-1 overall, 1-1 vs. 49th District opponents) ran their win streak to nine consecutive games against North Laurel (1-6, 0-2), who has now been shut out four times.
“This was a good win for us,” Marcum said. “There is a lot of respect between these two teams, but when you’re out there battling, it’s a hard-fought match. They played about as physical as anyone we’ve played and that’s OK, we like that.”
South Laurel is scheduled to be back in action Friday against Barbourville at 7 p.m. while the Jaguars travel to play Garrard County Thursday at 6:15 p.m.