First-year Henry Clay Coach Jason Behler has been looking for two consistent halves out of his Blue Devils all season, but last year’s state finalist hadn’t found its stride until faced with Bryan Station’s potential history making run Thursday night. The Blue Devils’ 3-0 win made an emphatic statement that the defending 11th Region champion remains a contender.
“I thought this game could have been put away a little earlier, but I’m really proud of the effort, not only of my seniors, but everybody that stepped out there,” Behler said. The victory brought the Devil’s record to 7-8-1, 2-0-1 in the district. “This is a district win. Nothing’s easy in this district or the city of Lexington.”
The Defenders (8-6-2, 2-1-0), on a six-game win streak and already having perhaps its best season in program history, sat poised to claim their first No. 1 seed in next month’s 42nd District tournament, but had to do so with a road win on Henry Clay’s Senior Night. The Blue Devils made sure that didn’t happen.
Senior wingman Nick Whitehouse threatened Bryan Station’s flank from the outset and his cross into the heart of the box found just enough of forward Trustun Ashburn’s head to turn in Henry Clay’s first goal with 30:08 left in the first half.
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“Nick probably should have had seven assists tonight,” Behler said. “I wish we could have helped him out a little bit more on finishing some goals, but he’s a handful for any defense to handle, and he just showed what he has tonight.”
Fourth-year Bryan Station Coach Manes Preptit worried his players might still be intimidated by the six-time defending 42nd District champs, and when the first goal went in, he could sense them deflate.
“We can hang with this team. We just have to not be afraid,” Preptit said after the game. “This is a different team from the past Bryan Station teams. We’re able to hang with the best of teams, but we’ve got to do all the right stuff. We have to work as a team.”
The Blue Devils kept up their high-pressure attack in the second half. Whitehouse again harassed Bryan Station’s back line, turning over the outside back just outside the corner of the box and putting a dangerous pass across the face of the goal that Defenders keeper Jacob Shannon punched away.
Unfortunately for Shannon, the ball bounced right to the onrushing Henry MacFarlan who easily put away the sitter to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead with 32 minutes left in the game.
Moments later a ball lifted into the box by Ashburn took a sideways hop through Shannon’s hands and into the goal to make the score 3-0 and finish off the game.
For Henry Clay, the win could be the moment the Blue Devils get off their roller coaster season and begin stringing together the halves they need to repeat in the 11th Region.
“To keep the district streak alive and being No. 1 (seed), that’s always good,” Whitehouse said. “I’m just proud that we got the W and that we could finish the crosses, because that’s what we’ve been working on lately. It’s starting to come together I feel like.”
For Bryan Station, a No. 2 seed in the district tournament remains its best seed ever. And it means it will face a Scott County team it defeated 3-0 on Sept. 8.
“We’re going to play a tough Scott County team and they’re going to be looking for revenge from the last game,” Preptit said. “But I think my boys are going to get up for it.”