The Daviess County Panthers and a district final appearance go hand-in-hand as the last time DC wasn’t in a district championship, none of its current players had been born.
It’s been 20 years since the Panthers weren’t in a district final but the only number on their minds is seven as Thursday’s 6-1 win over Apollo gave them their seventh-straight 9th District Tournament title.
DC coach Doug Sandier said Monday’s battle with Owensboro was good for his team as it opened their eyes before its final with the Eagles.
“I think Monday was the best thing that happened to us,” he said. “Monday, I think, maybe opened these guys’ eyes that things can happen in district tournament time. I didn’t have to say a whole lot before this game. Our practice yesterday and even Tuesday, both practices, I kind of lit into them a little bit after Monday night. I was disappointed in our approach to that game. Told them basically what I expected from here on out.”
The Panthers never trailed Thursday as Tanner Andersen scored in the first couple of minutes to put his team on the board.
Midway through the first, Apollo’s Harrison Bowman found the back of a net on a stunner for the lone Eagle goal of the game to tie it at 1-1.
“The disappointing thing is the goal we allowed is something we had worked on defending and we just didn’t get organized quick enough,” Sandifer said. “That’s frustrating when you work on that specific thing knowing they’re probably going to do that but we bounced back and played very well most of the first half.
“The second half, I thought we wore them down. Our attack has a tendency to wear teams down if we’re consistent in the attack.”
DC added two more goals in the first half as Declan Armistead and Anderson got it by the Eagle keeper to give their team a 3-1 lead at the break.
The second half was all Panthers as Andersen added another for a hat trick. Armistead added his second of the game as Sean Higgs also scored for DC in the championship victory.
“It feels great,” Armistead said. “Words can’t even describe how happy we are. It’s not every day you get to do that.”
For anyone that attends a DC Panthers boys’ soccer contest, they’re sure to hear Sandifer yell “Armi” a couple of dozen times throughout the game.
When Armistead hears that, he knows it’s time to turn it up.
“He expects the best out of me and every play, he wants the best,” he said. “When he screams my name, I know I need to work harder and do more and be more of a leader, that’s why he gave me the captain’s band is he knows I can be the leader.”
Armistead is a senior for the Panthers and Sandifer said he challenges his seven leaders coming into Thursday.
“They have the experience. Most of them have been involved for at least the last 2-3 seasons,” he said of his oldest players. “They’ve been here before so you expect that leadership to come and those are the seven that I challenged Monday night. I said you’re either going to start leading this team or I’m going to turn it over to the juniors to start leading it. That’s who I was mostly disappointed in is they didn’t get their team ready mentally to play. I challenged them a little bit and the last few days, we’ve had a different attitude in practice and a different approach in this game tonight.
“I like our seniors and their good kids, they’re good players obviously, but maybe a little spoiled from the success from the last couple years and forget how hard some of those battles were to win these things.”
Apollo coach Ryan Poirier said his team was ready for the challenge but Tuesday’s thriller with Owensboro Catholic took a lot out of them.
“I think they were excited for the chance to compete for a championship,” he said. “Some of them said they just didn’t feel like they had much left in the tank after Tuesday. The overtime, the penalty kicks, it was emotionally draining, physically draining. No excuses, they played better than we did. They deserved to win.”
The Eagles were without sophomore forward Teranse Twihenya as he picked up two yellow cards on Tuesday.
Poirier said that was an issue but they’ll have no problems in gaining the confidence they’ll need to be ready for next week’s 3rd Region Tournament at Muhlenberg County.
“We feel like we’ll match up well and be okay to go against those guys,” he said. “We’ll see what the draw is, see when we play, see who we play and get to work on getting back to championship game.”
Both teams will find out who they play next week Saturday morning during the draw at OHS.