By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Due to being in just a two-team district this season, both the Somerset Briar Jumpers and Pulaski County Maroons were assured of a berth in next week’s Boy’s 12th Regional Soccer Tournament.
That however didn’t matter at all last night at Pulaski County High School, as the Maroons and Briar Jumpers met up in the championship game of the 47th District Tournament.
Pride, bragging rights, or playing an easier seed in next week’s regional tourney — you name it — both of these clubs wanted this one, and wanted it badly.
And, as one might expect, goals were at a premium in Tuesday night’s clash between the two arch-rivals with neither club giving the other an inch.
In fact, there was just one goal scored in 80 minutes of play between the two squads.
Thanks to Mostafa El-Kalliny’s score with only 11:24 remaining in the contest, it was the Briar Jumpers avenging a 3-1 loss to PC two weeks ago with a 1-0 victory, giving head coach Steve Wallace the seventh district tourney championship of his coaching career.
“It wasn’t very pretty soccer, but you had two teams scratching and fighting pretty hard for everything they got tonight,” pointed out coach Wallace, after his club moved to 10-7-2 on the year with the win over Pulaski County.
“Pulaski County is a much, much better soccer team than I even thought they were,” continued the SHS coach. “They played their guts out tonight the whole time. And, they play smart. Defensively, they don’t hurt themselves, and we scored off a corner — a play we’ve worked hard on for the past couple of days in practice.”
Both teams had opportunities early on to grab a lead in the contest, but Pulaski’s keeper — Mason Johnson — along with Somerset’s Brandon Patterson — kept both teams off the scoreboard for almost 70 minutes of play. That is until El-Kalliny’s header that found the back of the net, coming off a corner kick from Somerset’s Austin Hill.
“The game went kind of like I expected it would go,” stated PC head coach Casey Inabnitt.
“I knew basically one team would have to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes, and unfortunately it wasn’t us getting to capitalize today, and we came up on the short end of the stick,” Inabnitt remarked.
Both teams will now move on to next week’s 12th Regional Soccer Tournament, which will be hosted by the winner of the West Jessamine—Mercer County game.
For Wallace — a coach that had to replace 10 starters off of last year’s squad — winning another district crown with a very young team was very gratifying indeed.
“We returned only one starter from last year,” stated Wallace. “The other kids — they didn’t play any varsity at all last season. So, to actually go further than the group last year that had 11 seniors, they’ve got to be extremely proud of themselves. Now, we’ve just got to go and get ready for the regional tourney next week and see what happens.”
Pulaski County meanwhile, fell to 9-8 on the year with the loss to Somerset last night, but Inabnitt says his club will regroup and be ready to go in next week’s regional tournament — regardless of who PC’s opponent may be.
“My kids have worked hard and this one is going to hurt a lot, but the good news is that we’re still alive,” said Inabnitt.
“We’ve still got more games to play and we’re going to go hard for a week now at practice,” added the PC coach. “We’re going to come into the regional tournament prepared, and ready to go and hopefully make a run.”
Members of the 47th District All-Tournament Team were Mostafa El-Kalliny, Nick Henry, Austin Hill, and Brandon Patterson from Somerset, while Pulaski County’s Zach Atwell, Jose Delgado, and Mason Johnson were also named to the squad.