There’s a new head coach on the sidelines for the Henry Clay boys’ soccer team, but the Blue Devils are every bit as formidable as they’ve been in years past.
They made that much clear with a 4-2 victory over Scott County in the 42nd District finals Wednesday evening on their home field. The win made Henry Clay a district champion for the seventh consecutive season. Both teams will play in next week’s 11th Region tournament at Bryan Station.
Jason Behler, an assistant at Henry Clay for 13 years before taking over after Tim Bernardi resigned this past offseason, has been part of some successful teams, including last year’s state runners-up.
“I’m just trying my best to keep the tradition rolling,” Behler said. “We’re lucky to get a lot of athletic, skilled players here. A lot of my job is moving those pieces around and trying to get the most out of players or something different out of players.”
Trustun Ashburn, a senior, recorded his first hat trick of the season. All three goals came in the second half, the first two off assists by fellow senior Nick Whitehouse. Ashburn’s second and third goals each came after Scott County goals trimmed Henry Clay’s lead to one.
Those get-backs were confidence boosters for the Blue Devils, Ashburn said.
“When they hit, we struck back and it got the team back into a groove and got us ready for the next possession,” Ashburn said.
Improving leadership and communication have been points of emphasis for Henry Clay all season. While many of its players were around for last year’s finals run, many of them didn’t have as big a role as they do this season or contributed in different ways entirely.
Earlier in the season, when the Devils were in the midst of a 2-6 start, they might not have responded to Scott County’s scores the way they did Wednesday night.
“When we got the first one in the second half to go up 2-0, I let out a sigh and I couldn’t even get the sigh out before my nerves were back again,” Behler said. “… You just have to understand that no team will give up, no team will stop fighting. I was really proud of the effort that they put in, the resilience and mental toughness that my team showed tonight to get those goals right back.”
Henry Clay 4, Scott County 2
G—HC: Ashburn 3 (44’, 48’, 56’), MacGillivray (8’ FK). SC: Willoughby (46’), Bennett (55’).
GK—HC: Gregory. SC: Mickey.
Records: Henry Clay 10-9-1, Scott County 9-7-1.
42nd District boys’ all-tournament team
Henry Clay: Trustun Ashburn, Henry Macfarlan, Colby Rose, Nick Whitehouse
Scott County: Ben Flora, Easton Mickey, Justin Willoughby
Sayre: Wick Hallos, Logan Pelfrey
Bryan Station: Diallo Irakoze, Russell Scaife