• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

WCHS boys’ soccer loses to Dunbar in 11th Region final

The Woodford County High School boys’ soccer team had Paul Laurence Dunbar so frustrated during the 11th Region tournament championship game on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Henry Clay, that the game got really physical.

Through the first half and most of the second, the Yellow Jackets kept Dunbar from scoring, something the Bulldogs are used to doing on a regular basis.

As a result, they started hitting harder, tackling players and one player even threw a backhand punch at a Woodford player, but did not get caught. In all, Dunbar got tagged three times with yellow cards, yet none of their players were ejected from the game.

While Woodford continued to play a hard, physical game of its own, in the end, Dunbar finally got a shot into the net midway through the second half and then held on for a 1-0 lead.

“I’m very proud of my team,” said Woodford head coach Fonyam Atanga. “We had a rude awakening the first time we played at the Bluegrass State Games. If this group of kids were not as resilient as they are, we would never have gotten to where we were. I honestly did not expect us to do as well as we did this season based on our first three games. However, I promised them after that weekend it was going to take a lot of hard work for us to get better and I’m truly happy that this group got to experience something that some of our more talented teams were unable to the previous three years – make it to the region finals. Our goal was to make it to state, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough to achieve that.”

After the game, White, along with fellow seniors, Maclain Evans and Alex Karbach were named to the 11th All-Region tournament team.

“Maclain was really our most decisive player all season and one of our captains,” said Atanga. “He suffered a late injury in the region semifinal, so I know he wasn’t playing at 100 percent, but he gave it his all and as he did all season, provided the emotional fire the team needed to keep going.

“Trevor, our other captain, was more of a quiet leader who led the team by example. He was always a good compliment for Maclain’s leadership style and was a rock on defense with his partner at center back, Alex.

“Alex to me is a player that we will have a hard time replacing next year. He really grew a lot as a player this year and I wish we had one more year of him.”

With the loss, Woodford ends its season with a 10-7-4 overall record, a 10-5-2 region record and a 4-1-0 district record and its third consecutive 41st District title. Not bad for a team that Atanga said would be “rebuilding” this year.

In the first half,both team’s defenses were tested the entire frame. While both teams had good scoring opportunities, neither team could find the back of the net.

For Woodford, arguably its best chance of scoring in the game came when senior Trevor White headed a corner kick at the net, but the shot was thwarted by the Dunbar goal keeper.

Dunbar also had a couple good chances to score. On one of them, Woodford’s senior goal keeper George Stanley made a great diving save to stop one shot.

At halftime, the game remained scoreless as the teams got together to regroup at the break and prepare for the second half.

In the second half, things got real “chippy,” as Woodford had Dunbar very frustrated with its physical play. So much so, Dunbar resorted to tackling Woodford players, one player even threw a backhand punch at a Woodford player after the play was done. The two teams continued to play hard and both had multiple corner kicks and free kicks – Woodford had four corner kicks and eight free kicks while Dunbar had nine corner kicks and four free kicks.

Then at 19:48in the second half, Dunbar squeezed a shot into the net between the goal keeper and the net post to take a 1-0 lead.

After than, Woodford tried many attack attempts, the best one a header off a corner kick that just missed. Meanwhile, Dunbar also continued its attacks, but, more often than not, Dunbar played defense to try and keep Woodford from scoring.

When the game ended, Dunbar was 11th region champion, while Woodford’s season came to an end.

As to his final thoughts on the season and the future, Atanga said, “My thoughts are that I would’ve preferred to still be playing, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get the right bounces. I still feel my team gave everything they had and I couldn’t ask for more out of them because I don’t think they’d have anything else to give.

“It’s maybe too early to look ahead to the future, but we have a good core of players returning that will provide us with the experience we need to, hopefully, make another deep run. We have some unusual challenges coming up ahead of us, but like every year, I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to overcome them.”

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