The Daviess County boys soccer team just keeps on winning. Five consecutive years now, they’ve won the Region 3 Tournament, this time thanks to a 6-2 win over Owensboro Thursday night.
The Panthers (20-2-1) have played in the region title game every season since 2003, and head coach Doug Sandifer couldn’t be happier with the success.
“I’m really proud of the program we’ve built,” he said. “My assistant coaches deserve a ton of credit. They put in so much work for these kids and help us get prepared. These kids deserve a lot of credit for sustaining this level of success.”
The Red Devils (16-6-1) played a close game early, but couldn’t slow down a powerful offensive unit. Head coach Ryan Haley said a couple mistakes was all it took to get in a hole.
“I thought our guys played hard,” he said. “We had some defensive breakdowns that led to some easy goals.”
The Panthers got on the board in the fourth minute when Max Miller took the ball deep and crossed it back into the box for a goal by Declan Armistead. Owensboro got an equalizer from Josh Head after a corner kick bounced around in front of the net midway through the half.
“When they tied it up, I wasn’t overly concerned about it,” Sandifer said. “I thought we were playing fine. We were going to keep getting chances, and the guys didn’t seem to panic.”
Daviess County went up for good when Brian Winkler made a quick move off an inbounds pass and scored in the 31st minute. After a 2-1 halftime score, the Panthers pulled away in the second period.
Jacob Boling got things going again with a pair of goals less than 10 minutes in, but he said he owes the scores to his teammates.
“We got it out on the wings,” he said. “They were serving in good balls, and I just got my foot on the end of one and my head on the end of one.”
Max Miller got back-to-back goals 10 minutes later to really put the game out of reach. On the first, he settled a corner kick and punched it through. On the second, he took the ball near midfield, beat two defenders and the goalkeeper, and finished it off with a light touch.
The Panthers’ offense has been potent all season, but has been especially clicking as of late.
“The offense has been very effective,” Miller said. “We’ve made the right passes and gotten in behind people, and we know what to do from there.”
Austin Sovar got a goal for the Devils with 17 minutes to go, and neither team was able to score again.
Haley was hoping his team could find a way to get the upset, but the first-year coach said he can’t have expected a much better 2018 campaign.
“We’ve had a very good season,” he said. “It’s the most wins since 2000. That’s the kind of year we had. Of course the boys are sad, but they had some accomplishments.”
He’s hoping to build the Owensboro program to rival what the Panther dynasty has become, and Haley knows the commitment it’s going to take.
Sandifer said it’s a challenge to play for a team with such high expectations.
“It’s not easy playing here, but when you are willing to do it, you reap the benefits,” Sandifer said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
Daviess County now advances to the state tournament, and will host Region 4 winner South Warren at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The two met one time this year, with the Spartans (15-8-1) winning 3-1 at Daviess County. Miller is expecting to give them a better challenge this time.
Miller said the team doesn’t have plans to end their season anytime soon. While they don’t want to be compared to last year’s team, they want to repeat a run to the state championship.
“We don’t want to be compared to the other teams, but we want to get at least as far as they got,” he said. “We need to have some sort of difference, but have the same end goal.”