|Soccer team captures regional crown
By Dan Manley
Advocate Sports Editor
The weather was unusual to say the least.
The field was foreign turf to the Tribe and the opponents had one of the top offensive players in the state of Kentucky.
Senior forward Conner Harper entered the 10th Region title match having scored 46 goals on the season to go with five assists for 97 points. Only 16 players in the history of high school soccer in Kentucky have scored 50 or more goals in a season.
Harper did manage a goal in the title match but that came on a penalty kick and the Indians were able to shut him down the rest of the way as they rallied to score a 2-1 double overtime victory to earn a state tournament trip for the fourth time since Nick Pannell took over the program.
The regional title was the first since 2015 and the fourth in the last 10 years.
“Winning a regional title is just really hard,” Pannell said. “With the northern teams in our region now it’s just very competitive so winning a title is always going to be special.”
The match was only 15 minutes old when Pendleton County took advantage of a penalty kick by Harper for a 1-0 lead and that’s how things stood at halftime.
Once they were on the scoreboard the Wildcats put 10 players on defense and anytime the Indians advanced the ball close they cleared it with a long kick to Harper to see what he could do on a solo basis.
But the Indians had sophomore Austin Stigall marking him and with the help of the other defenders the Tribe was able to shut him out the rest of the way.
Then with about 20 minutes left in the match, freshman Ben Miles had a corner kick and he hooked it into the goal to tie the match.
“You don’t see very many of those,” Pannell said, “but Rowan County had scored on them like that and we had worked on that in preparing for them. Ben just struck it perfectly and it curled right in.”
The Indians were dominating time of possession and keeping the pressure on Pendleton County and had a chance to take the lead with about two minutes left when their keeper made an outstanding save.
So regulation ended in a 1-1 tie and the two teams battled through the first five-minute overtime without a score.
“I really felt pretty good about our chances, even if we had gone to penalty kicks,” Pannell added.
But the match would not get to that point.
With two minutes to play in the second overtime sophomore Pruitt Lansdale made a crossing pass to sophomore Colton Covix who was able to get it into the net even without a perfectly clean hit and the Indians won the regional crown.
“What a win,” Pannell explained. “Some of our guys who are sort of quiet, just to watch their emotions sort of erupt when they realized we had accomplished a major goal was exciting.”
The Indians won regional titles back in 2009, 2011 and 2015 during Pannell’s tenure and then added 2018 to the list.
Up next is a huge hurdle in a Ft. Thomas Highlands team that hasn’t lost a match to a team in the state of Kentucky.
The Bluebirds entered Tuesday night’s contest with a 20-1-3 record with the one loss coming against Hamilton Southeastern out of Indiana by a 1-0 score.
The Bluebirds have yielded only 10 goals all season and only one team, St. Leon East Central out of Indiana, managed to score more than one goal against Highlands and that came in a 2-2 tie.
The other two ties to blemish the Highlands’ record came by scores of 0-0 to Paul Laurence Dunbar and Bishop Brossart.
Highlands and Bishop Brossart tied 0-0 at Highlands on September 25.
Montgomery County defeated Bishop Brossart 1-0 at Cunningham Field back on Sept. 12.
But the Bluebirds also defeated Campbell County, 7-0, while the Indians took down the Camels just 2-0.
“I know we’ll have to play really well to win but that’s going to be the case anytime you reach this point,” Pannell said.
The winner of Tuesday night’s match will play this weekend somewhere in Lexington in the round of eight.
The Indians entered the state tournament Tuesday night with a 17-3-1 record have won 16 with one tie in their last 17 matches.
The Tribe had allowed just 10 goals in its last 15 matches going into Tuesday night’s battle while Highlands had allowed just six goals during that same time frame.
“Their extremely big,” Pannell said. “They have a lot of height on their defense and it’ll take a tremendous effort for us to win, particularly on the road.”
MCHS 2, Campbell County 0
The Indians struggled in the first half against the Camels in the semifinal round last Thursday night but came on strong after the break to get a 2-0 win.
The teams went to the locker room at halftime in a 0-0 deadlock but finally scored when sophomore Colton Covix scored and then junior Mason Anderson scored just three minutes later to give the Indians a cushion heading down the stretch.
Keeper Danny Hernandez and the Tribe defense recorded their seventh shutout of the season.
MCHS 5, Harrison County 1
Five different players scored goals for the Indians as they got a wake up call in the first half and then coasted to the win.
Montgomery County had a 2-0 lead late in the first half when the Indians misplayed a corner kick.
But after leading just 2-1 at the half the Indians put away the ’Breds in the second half.
Austin Stigall, Mason Anderson, Ean King, Daniel Shelton and Pruitt Lansdale each had a goal in the opening round of the region last week.