High School Sports

‘It’s an amazing feeling.’ Once in a lifetime play nets a championship.

In a play he says he’s never tried and maybe never even thought about, Henry Clay’s Cayden Rose launched a curling corner kick over a leaping Daviess County keeper and clean into the net to give the Blue Devils the lead and eventually the win in Saturday’s Kentucky High School Athletic Association Boys’ State Soccer Championship Saturday at Bryan Station.

“It’s a sweet end,” Rose, a senior, said of his unintended shot that put the Blue Devils up 1-0 with just over 27 minutes left in the game. “To be able to score and win the game in the last game, and probably the last soccer game I’ll ever play. It’s an amazing feeling.”

What was he trying to do?

“Put it back post. It went back post,” he said, smiling.

Henry Clay tacked on another goal by Tahj Jairam in the closing minutes helping his team seal it, 2-0, and secure the program’s third state title and first since 2010.

It’s the first for Coach Jason Behler, who was an assistant when Henry Clay made it’s last finals appearance in 2015. He was as shocked as anyone when Rose knocked it in.

“I’ve never seen him play that ball or try that. He sends a very consistent ball. That’s why he’s been taking our corners for the last couple of weeks,” Behler said. “I did not tell him to do that. He took that on himself. And I’m sure glad that he did.”

Henry Clay came out the aggressor in the first half, generating more chances and more corners with its relentless, pressing style. But Daviess County frustrated the Blue Devils attempts to reach their attacking players and when Henry Clay did break through, its shots missed the mark.

“That’s a really difficult defense to break down,” Behler said. “… They played deep sweeper and don’t let anything in behind. We had all sorts of numbers inside the box. We had opportunities in the first half we missed. When you have those and you go in 0-0 at halftime, you feel like you should be winning, and a lot of guys would fold.”

Daviess County Coach Doug Sandifer said he knew his Panthers would have to defend much of the night and his players stuck to their game plan.

“Our goal was to be within a goal within the last 15 minutes and we were,” Sandifer said. “They did exactly what I what I asked them to do. The few chances we got, I thought their keeper handled them brilliantly. He was fantastic. He didn’t bobble a ball.”

Perhaps Daviess County’s best chance to equalize came on a free kick from Nate Dailey with just under four minutes left. He struck a right-footed shot on goal from more than 30 yards out that Henry Clay keeper Ethan Anderson got both hands on above the crossbar and held onto while also falling on his backside.

“I was super close to the line,” admitted Anderson, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “I jumped so high I didn’t know how I was coming down. I’m glad I stuck on that line and held that ball.”

For Henry Clay’s seniors the championship is the culmination of a two-year campaign that began last year when they entered the playoffs with a losing record and then went on a tear all the way to the state semifinals last year. That core group led a team that went 24-1-3 this season.

“This team are mental giants,” Behler said. “Adversity has not gotten to them one time. They went through everything last season — seven starters out at one point last season — they just kept grinding and grinding and all the dividends of that have paid this season. … I can’t be more proud of them.”

Greenwood wins girls’ title

A free kick awarded on the right edge of the penalty box set up Alyson Kaelin’s tap-in goal with less than 10 minutes to go in the game and Greenwood held on to capture its first state title in its first appearance at the KHSAA Girls’ State Soccer Championship on Saturday.

“We thought it was a PK, but it was right outside the box, and I knew I had to put it on frame,” said senior Anna Haddock, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We did what we did all year. Our girls are scrappy in the box and Alyson got on the end of it. I was like ‘oh my God,’ somebody has to put a foot on it.’ The ball was literally on the line.”

Haddock’s kick split Highlands’ three-player defensive wall and nearly beat the Highlands keeper at the near post, but Maggie Hinegardner got a glove on it, sending it spinning down the goal line out of her reach.

“It was just fumbling in the box,” Kaelin said. “Another one of our girls almost scored it. It just kind of fumbled around and I just touched it in. It feels amazing, right now. ... We’re just really enjoying the moment.”

Highlands, a state runner-up last year, as well, came out the more aggressive team and generated seven shots to Greenwood’s two in the first half. Greenwood was only outshot 6-4 in the second half.

“(We) came out slow in the first half, and we knew we needed to fix that for halftime and our intensity raised,” said Greenwood Coach Zac Lechler, in his first year as head coach after four years leading the junior varsity. “We put them under a lot of pressure in the second half.”

As they did after giving up the lead against Lexington Catholic earlier in the tournament, Highlands significantly ratcheted up their intensity trying for the tying goal in the game’s final moments.

“In the second half, we knew what we wanted to do,” Lechler said. “We needed to play our game … Their center mids did a really good job of finding space in the middle of the field and getting long-range shots, but (goalkeeper) Liz (DeMarse) knew exactly where she needed to be all night. She came up with some spectacular saves that bailed us out. Our backs have been phenomenal for us all season and don’t give up too many opportunities.”

Greenwood finished the season 23-2-3 after a dominating run through the 4th Region and three shutouts in the state tournament.

“This has been our goal for four years, and we knew this was our chance,” said Haddock, who will continue her playing career at Auburn. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it. I couldn’t ask for anything more right now.”

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

BOYS

Ahmed Delic, Warren Central; Cole Lorenzen, Highlands; Dylan Moore, Prestonsburg; Hunter Sekelsky, Louisville Collegiate; Ethan Miller, East Carter; Logan Cales, East Carter; Jate Longhurst, Oldham County; Ethan Brauner, Oldham County; Bay La, Daviess County; Jacob Boling, Daviess County; Hunter Clark, Daviess County; Cayden Rose, Henry Clay and Sota Ippongi, Henry Clay.

Most Valuable Player — Ethan Anderson, Henry Clay

GIRLS

Ashlyn Payton, Daviess County; Ashlyn Haugen, South Oldham; Elizabeth Burchett, Prestonsburg; McKenna Hamm, Lexington Catholic; Clare Huff, Ashland Blazer; Abby Huff, Ashland Blazer; Chloe Kilcran, Sacred Heart; Caroline Effinger, Sacred Heart; Chloe Bramble, Highlands; Kelsey Mathis, Highlands; Faith Broering, Highlands; Elizabeth DeMarse, Greenwood and Ellie Belcher, Greenwood.

Most Valuable Player – Anna Haddock, Greenwood

Jared Peck, the Herald-Leader’s Digital Sports Writer, covers high school athletics and has been with the company as a writer and editor for more than 19 years.
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