For the past three years, Rowan County’s season has ended at the hands of Russell. Going into postseason play the Vikings have a leg up on the Red Devils.
Sebastian Taylor scored three goals and assisted on another to lead Rowan County over Russell 4-2 on Tuesday night at the Russell Soccer Complex.
The last time Rowan County (12-5-3) defeated Russell on its home field was back in 2005, or too long in Taylor’s eyes.
“This was an important win, especially for our seniors,” Taylor said. “It’s just a great feeling coming out here, especially since our season ended to them for the past three years.”
Rowan County started slowly, struggling to keep pace with the more aggressive Russell team.
Vikings coach Alan Evans really didn’t recognize the team in the first half who was playing in the Rowan County jerseys.
“I’m not sure who that team was in the first half,” Evans said. “Unfortunately, that’s kind of been our condition all year — one bad half, one good half.”
But Rowan did start the scoring, when Taylor bounced a goal into the right lower corner past diving goalkeeper Michael Scaggs.
Russell (7-10-0) answered less than two minutes later when Patrick Soucy received the ball, turned past his man, then fired the ball in the net.
In the first half Russell outshot Rowan County 11-7, but never could find a way to break the game open.
“You have games like that,” said Russell coach Joe Grizzle. “I thought we played with a lot of energy tonight, we did some good things but had some breakdowns on defense. We’re working on it and hopefully we get better.”
Those breakdowns came in the second half, when Rowan County became the aggressor.
The Vikings scored a goal in the first 2:30, when Jon Lacy kicked in a cross from Taylor. At 35:58 Rowan struck again, when Lacy hit a cross that was headed in by Taylor.
Rowan County went on to outshoot Russell 13-8 in the second half.
After Evans didn’t recognize his own team in the first half, he was more than pleased with the effort his team showed in the second half.
“The second half is the team we’re used to,” Evans said. “Playing strong, finishing strong, playing simple within ourselves and getting results.”
Taylor scored one more time, kicking in a cross that wasn’t cleared by Russell defenders, and was the insurance goal the Vikings were looking for.
The senior striker had three goals and assisted on the other one. He had another goal negated with an offsides call.
But according to Taylor’s coach, a long bus ride that was late arriving to the field may have effected his play in the first half.
“Sebastian was finishing well tonight,” Evans said. “We had a late bus ride over, we had the first game and we’re not used to playing the first game, so I think it took a half for him to wake up. But Sebastian was dialed in tonight.”
After Rowan County scored the first two goals of the second half, Russell stayed in it with another Soucy goal that he bounced over the keeper’s head.
The most important thing Grizzle saw on the night was that his junior striker kept attacking the net even after the Red Devils fell behind by two goals.
“We’ve been trying to get him to attack the goal more,” Grizzle said of Soucy. “It paid off for him.”
Russell has two more games, against South Point and Bishop Brossart, before district tournament play kicks off next week.
With the loss, the Red Devils are now on a four-game slide. All that matters for Grizzle is getting ready for tournament play.
“We always play a really tough game to get ready for postseason because to me nothing matters until you get to postseason,” Grizzle said. “Records and all that, I never put much stock into that. It’s always how you play in the end.”
With the win, Rowan County finished region play 7-0-1 record and has a six-game winning streak. And if history repeats itself, Rowan County and Russell might well meet again in the regional tournament.
Rowan and Russell have played in the region tournament the past 10 years, with the Vikings holding a 6-4 record over the Red Devils. But the thought of the last three years rings clear for Rowan County.
“The last three years our season has been ended by Russell,” Evans said. “So we have to get over that mental hurdle of seeing Russell and not only being able to play with them, but dominate them like we did in the second half.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.