• By Thomas Mims, Sport Writer

Yellow Jackets fight through opening night jitters, down West Jessamine 3-1

The Woodford County High School boys’ soccer team needed almost the entire 80 minutes to settle down and move past the nerves that come with the first game of the season, but the boys did and earned a 3-1 win over West Jessamine Tuesday night. The Yellow Jackets started 2019 slowly, falling behind 1-0 just 11 minutes into the opener. A reckless challenge in the box set up a West Jessamine penalty kick and Noah Combs buried it to put the Colts ahead. “I think the nerves really got the better of us in the first half, but that’s not anything I can really work on in practice,” said WCHS Coach Fonyam Atanga. It wouldn’t take long for a Woodford County response though, as sophomore Cai Coburn fed a through-ball to a sprinting Henry Albor on the right flank. Albor continued towards goal and blasted the ball into the back of the net, well out of the keeper’s reach. Twenty minutes went by after the tying goal with West Jessamine controlling possession more than their black-clad opponents. Still, the Jackets would be the ones to take the lead with a 34th minute goal by senior Guy Mogge. With defensive pressure all around, Mogge started to make a move on the ball, but was brought down just inside of the box, setting up a Woodford penalty. Despite the objections of Colts players and coaches—who argued Mogge simply tripped over the ball — the senior took the penalty kick he earned, clanging it in off the right post to put the Jackets ahead 2-1. Just before halftime it looked as if the Colts had tied the score, but the goal was brought back on an offside call after much deliberation between the center official and assistant referee. The second half brought plenty of frustration for Atanga. Thirty minutes of physical play and blown opportunities in front of goal had the Yellow Jacket coach asking his team the simplest of questions, “CAN WE SCORE A GOAL?” he yelled after another opportunity ended without the ball in the back of the net. The Jackets weren’t entirely to blame. The Colts’ keeper, John Collin McKibben, made a few difficult saves in tough situations including a diving stop to ruin a Woodford County try on a back-post run to start the second half, and a fingertip save in the 47th minute. West Jessamine saw a few chances of its own spoiled as well, thanks in part to some heroics by Woodford goalie Connor Walsh. In the 71st minute, the Colts were awarded a free kick from 30 yards out. The shot looked to be on target to sneak inside the left post, but Walsh turned it away with a diving save to his right, punching the ball out of play. A minute later, the Jackets countered and took advantage of a massive lapse in the Colts transition defense. Senior forward Chad Jones got the ball at midfield with a defender to his left and a defender slightly to his right trying to slow his run. To Jones’ far right though, there was half a field of empty space and Albor dashing toward it. Jones played the simple pass and Albor took it to goal, scoring on a one-on-one opportunity against the keeper. “It felt good, coming out strong like that,” said Albor following his two-goal performance. From there it was smoother sailing as the Yellow Jackets dominated possession in the last eight minutes to secure the victory. “We played a lot better (after going up two),” said Albor, “It calmed everything down and we just played our game.” It was the sixth straight home-opener the boys’ program has won. The Jackets have not lost their first game of the season at Community Stadium since 2010. Still, heading into Thursday night’s match with Mercer County, Atanga knows his players have things they will need to clean up. “We have some defensive shape issues that a better team would exploit,” Atanga said. Thursday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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