Two teams in white jerseys walked onto the Hazard High School field for the 14th Region Championship soccer game. The Letcher Central boys, winner of the 53rd District, and the Perry Central Commodores, district runner-up, had split the regular season, but arcane tournament rules left Letcher Central running for the bus to find black jerseys just minutes before the game started.
Even if neither team meant offense by the jersey mix up, the two sides played furious soccer all night. Letcher Central was able to adjust to the quick tempo first and began to dominate play during the first 40-minute half. The Cougars were able to win loose balls and create scoring opportunities behind the dominating play of Central midfielder Joel Murtaugh, a senior.
A few headers by Murtaugh’s teammates were inches away from being goals for the Cougars and Perry Central had a few opportunities of their own off of counter attacks. Letcher sophomore Jordan Morrow came closest to scoring with one of his shots slipping just over the crossbar in the last minutes of the first half.
In the second half, Cougar freshman Simon Robinson came just inches from scoring as he fired off a quick shot just a few feet from the net with defenders all around him. Letcher Central goalkeeper Ethan Raleigh kept the Cougars in the game with some great netminding, but Perry Central was able to sneak a quick shot past Raleigh for the only goal of the night with 32 minutes to play. The pace of the game never settled in. Murtaugh very nearly tied the game with two minutes left to play, but the Commodores would hang on for the win and the regional crown.
Coach Joe Roberts expressed his appreciation for the team after the game. “At the beginning of the year, we only had seven boys come out for soccer and we never expected to be in (the title game),” said Roberts. “All 15 guys came together to make this a very successful year.”
Roberts’s pride was helped by the fact that junior defenseman James Craft, Jordan Morrow, and senior Zach Joseph were all named to the All-Region team.
— By MATT BUTLER