For the sixth year in a row, it’ll be Daviess County and Owensboro squaring off for the 9th District boys’ soccer tournament championship after they each picked up semifinal wins Tuesday night at Deer Park.
The Panthers used a hat trick from Hunter Clark and a strong all-around effort to dispatch a much-improved Owensboro Catholic 6-0 in the tournament opener.
Owensboro jumped out to a three-goal lead behind a pair of scores from Andrew Saltsman, and they were able to fend off a fierce attack to get past Apollo 3-1.
For photo from the games, click here.
The championship game will be played at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Panthers and Red Devils split their regular season contests, with DC taking game one 3-0 and OHS winning game two 3-2 in overtime.
DAVIESS COUNTY 6, OWENSBORO CATHOLIC 0
The Panthers started their title defense in usual fashion, mounting a heavy offensive attack that eventually wore down the Aces.
Clark scored a pair of goals that gave DC a 2-0 halftime lead, and his third capped off a four-goal second half that sent the Panthers through to the championship.
“That’s a first-round district result you want to get,” said head coach Doug Sandifer. “Get out, hope everybody is fairly healthy. We got a shutout and a good, solid defensive effort from our group.”
Clark’s first goal came about 18 minutes in after a barrage of shots that DC couldn’t get to go early. He added a second with 3:52 left in the half, this time booting in an impressive shot from the top left corner of the box.
“I think the whole team played really good together,” Clark said. “We all talked, and we just found the back of the net.”
Neh Reh made it 3-0 when he tapped in a cross from Jacob Boling eight minutes into the second half. Boling added a goal of his own five minutes later when he headed in a ball bouncing high in the box.
Tanner Andersen then made a couple moves to beat a defender and the keeper for a 5-0 lead midway through the half. Clark ended the scoring when a laser shot bounced off the keeper’s hands and into the net.
“In the second half we were better with our ball possession and moving the ball, and we opened up some opportunities for some other goals,” Sandifer said. “Overall I’m pleased with the way we played.”
Sandifer said having multiple options on offense gives them a big advantage over opponents.
“It makes us more dangerous,” he said. “We have more than one or two guys that can put the ball in the back of the net. We need those other guys to step up because teams are obviously going to key on Hunter and Jacob.”
The Panthers are already through to the region tournament next week, but Sandifer said they still want to extend their district championship streak to six.
“You’re guaranteed two more games, that’s all it means right now,” he said of the win. “Obviously winning a district championship is important to us. That will be our next goal, with the region after that.”
OWENSBORO 3, APOLLO 1
The Red Devils wanted to put the pressure on early, and they executed to perfection. Three goals in the first 22 minutes proved to be enough, though the Eagles certainly did not make things easy.
“In the first half we had a major emphasis on coming out and being the first one to score,” said OHS head coach Ryan Haley. “Apollo did a very good job as far as pushing the tempo on us in the second half. They didn’t give up. They outplayed us in the second half.”
Owensboro broke through just seven minutes in when Josh Head streaked through the defense to collect a pass from Noah Tucker before easily scoring on a breakaway goal.
Saltsman added his first goal six minutes later. Grayson McFarland pushed the ball deep up the left side and crossed it into the box, and Saltsman came diving in to drive it home. His second goal came with 19:15 to play in the half with an assist from Hser Thaw.
The Eagles came out aggressive in the second half, but they weren’t able to break through until Jacob Gillim rifled in a one-bounce shot from about 25 yards out.
“We don’t ever give up,” said Apollo head coach Ryan Poirier. “I wish we could have been a little bit better in the first half. In the second half we came out and showed who we are.”
Poirier and his big group of seniors were emotional after their last game together, but he was proud of the season they put together.
“I’ve had some of these kids since they were 12,” Poirier said. “We’ve built that chemistry and bond, and they play so hard for each other and love each other. You can’t coach that. I’m glad they showed fight and didn’t give up. That was good to see.”
Haley was happy to get the win, but he knows there is still work to do going forward.
“In the first half we were really on,” he said. “It didn’t look like we were doing as well in the second half but we still had opportunities. We’re looking to put together two halves of soccer. That’s going to be an emphasis, and taking it one game at a time.”
Though they’ve already secured a spot in next week’s region tournament, Haley and the Red Devils are eyeing their first district title since 2012. They’ve lost five straight championship games to Daviess County, but Haley is ready to take back the crown.
“Owensboro hasn’t had a district championship in a long time, and it’s something we’re going to try to bring home this year,” he said. “They’re confident, and they know what they’re capable of.”
2019 soccer coverage is presented by Worth Insurance Group.