• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

Jackets eliminated in district opener

The Woodford County High School boys' soccer team was defeated by Franklin County in its district tournament opener 4-3 on Oct. 12 at Capitol View Park. The game had a little of everything - there were high-flying goals and leaping saves. There was an ejection and a few yellow cards handed out. Most notably, there was an incredible amount of energy on and off the field. The players knew the stakes of the game but the crowd was electric for the entire 80 minutes. The fans in attendance were hanging on every ball sent towards the net. The first 20 minutes of the game were dominated by the Flyers and senior Kevin Johnson, who scored a pair of goals to test the Jackets' resilience early on. Johnson's first goal came on a deflection as part of a scuffle in front of the net that led to Johnson shooting a foot away from the keeper. Johnson beat keeper Chris Ramirez and the Flyers were off and running a couple minutes into the game. The Flyers' fans even came out onto the sidelines to celebrate the goal with the Flyers and the atmosphere was incredible from that point on. Johnson scored again on a header from a corner kick and the Jackets were on the ropes early in the first half. Junior Brandon Cromwell changed the landscape of the game in the second 20 minutes after getting moved up from defense to forward. Cromwell's energy and speed wreaked havoc on the field and stretched the Flyers' defense out wide and created gaps in the middle. Cromwell found Chris Phelps with a beauty of a pass and Phelps fired a shot past the freshman Flyer Keeper Cade Terry for the first Jacket goal of the game. A few minutes later, Cromwell found senior Marcus Watson, who shot a sweeping ball with his left foot that travelled into the right corner of the net for the equalizer. The remainder of the first half was fiercely played. Both teams were able to create chances that were turned away by the keepers. Both teams had a hard time staying on their feet in the muddy conditions, and that helped create a handful of chances for each team. The officials gave warnings to both benches in the first half as both teams were arguing for calls and one of Franklin County's assistant coaches was ejected from the game. In the second half, the lead changed hands when Flyers' sophomore Drew Harrod sent a ball past a diving Ramirez to make the score 3-2 with 28 minutes left in the game. Ten minutes later the Flyers struck again on a goal by senior Matthew Melton. The Flyers ran across the field to celebrate and even some fans ran onto the field from the student section. The game was far from over, as the Jackets would not go away quietly. "I think we played against a team that had a lot of desire," said Jackets' Coach Fonyam Atanga. "I'm not sure if we matched their desire the whole game and we had to claw our way back into this game and it was not easy." Cromwell took the ball and juked left then right and went around Flyer defenders and willed his way into position to make a shot attempt and scored past a leaping attempt by Terry to make the score 4-3 with 9:15 to go in the game. In the final nine minutes, the Jackets put together a furious rally to try and overcome the one-goal deficit, but were sent away multiple times by the young Flyers' keeper. Phelps had probably the best chance of all in the final minutes but his shot was sent flying by the keeper. The Jackets had a corner kick following the keeper deflection, but could not muster a goal out of the chance. The final minute was a blur as the Jackets kept coming with their pressure, but the Flyers were able to hold them off and beat the Jackets for the first time since 2012. The Flyers ran to the stands to celebrate with the fans while the Jackets made their walk back to the bench. "It was a tough game out here and they maybe played the best game of their lives tonight," said Atanga. "The third goal for Franklin County in particular was one of the best goals I've seen scored all season. I'm very proud of my guys for putting up a great fight tonight when they were down. This team has progressed so much this season and it's a shame we do not have another chance for them to compete."

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