By AARON SNYDER
GRAYSON Boyd County went to its Whitt’s end on Tuesday night.
Following a controversial call, senior Ryan Whitt drilled a penalty kick to lift the Lions to a 2-1 victory over Rowan County in the first round of the 16th Region Tournament at East Carter Middle School.
“I could play another game right now,” an elated Whitt said.
He’ll have to wait until Thursday, when Boyd County takes on East Carter in the semifinal round.
In Tuesday’s first game, Greenup County defeated Fleming County 2-1 for the first region tournament win in program history. The Musketeers and Russell will kick off semifinal action on Thursday at 6 p.m. at East Middle.
Rowan County struck first in the nightcap, thanks to great concentration by Daniel Brummer. Brummer drove the ball to just a few yards from the net before taking advantage of the goalkeeper venturing a bit too far.
But, as Boyd County coach William Ferguson said, that’s when a team typically reaches its most vulnerable point, directly following a score.
Boyd County (11-7-1) seized the opportunity, as just moments later, at the 23rd minute, Reid Rowsey retaliated. He banged in a ricochet off Rowan County goalkeeper Ty Alderman’s hands after a Lions shot attempt.
“Then it’s almost like a nil-nil game,” Ferguson said. “It’s always important to get one back on the board.”
What followed was highly physical and passionate play by two senior-laden teams that didn’t want to see their season come to a close.
Boyd County lost senior forward Chris Fugate to a red card — he must sit out the next two games. The only way he can play again is if the Lions win the region tournament.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time and said a wrong thing, whatever,” Ferguson said. “It happens, unfortunately.”
“We can definitely use that for motivation, wanting him to play again,” Ferguson added.
Rowan County (14-6-4) received its own yellow card earlier, as one was called against its sideline.
The most pivotal call, though, came in the 76th minute.
Boyd County junior Jonah Black hustled to retrieve a ball that had gone out of bounds. He quickly fired it forward, placing it perfectly in front of a striding Jordan Smith, who was in the penalty area. In between two Vikings, Smith took a tumble that referees deemed at the fault of Rowan County.
That’s when Whitt got his chance.
“I was hoping I would be the man to take it,” said Whitt, who added that he had only missed one PK in his life and was perfect on a handful of chances this season. “Fortunately, I put it in the back of the net.
“If it wasn’t for Jordan, I wouldn’t have had the chance.”
Ferguson offered no surprise in his stance of the call.
“It was a foul in the box,” he said. “We’ve seen it all year, whether for us or against us. I think it was a good call.”
Rowan County coach Alan Evans, on the other hand, adamantly disagreed with the call made by the assistant referee.
“My point of view, I’m looking down the field, I see a space and an arm comes up and touches him and their player takes a dive,” Evans said. “It’s like taking a charge in basketball. It’s the center referee’s ability to recognize it. Was he having an actual attack on the goal or was he taking a dive? He has to evaluate that in a matter of seconds. His AR (assistant referee) didn’t have an angle.
“That’s the problem with soccer,” he continued. “You’ve got 22 teenagers trying to kill each other and one whistle. It’s just a bad way to end a game. Let the boys decide the outcome of the game, not a call.”
Rowan County and its 13 seniors were 9-0-1 inside the region before Tuesday’s loss.
The Lions did not play East Carter during the regular season.
Greenup County 2
Fleming County 1
Seth Boyle and Zac Hutchinson helped Greenup County overcome an early 1-0 deficit to give the Musketeers their monumental win over Fleming County.
Hutchinson’s header and Boyle’s score in the first few minutes of the second half, coupled with the Musketeers’ defense, were enough to hold on against the Panthers. Fleming County’s (4-17-1) lone goal was by Ethan Duncan.
Said Greenup County coach Andy Zabrieszack: “It gives me a lot of pride and hope for our program. Greenup County’s never been expected to win. Teams used to schedule us to pad their schedule, and now they’re not doing that.”
Greenup County knocked off West Carter in the first round of the 62nd District Tournament. The Comets had won four of five before falling in the upset.
The Musketeers are 9-7-2. They lost to Russell, 11-2, during the regular season.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.