Spencer County ‘Bears’ down on defense, holds Woodford to fewest goals in district play
After dominating their previous three district opponents by a combined 24-2 margin, the Woodford County High School boys’ soccer team ran into a different kind of challenge Tuesday evening against Spencer County. The Bears approach was a simple one — pack the defensive half and keep the superior Woodford squad off the scoreboard as much as possible. To that end, the Bears were successful even in a 1-0 defeat. “The strategy from them was very commendable to be honest because it’s a district game,” said Woodford Coach Fonyam Atanga. “If you don’t think you’re as good as another team, you’re more than welcome to use whatever strategy you want. It’s not up to them to make it easy for us and we struggled with it. To be honest, we haven’t seen that all year. We haven’t seen a team that didn’t even try to play.” The Jackets looked every bit as frustrated as Atanga sounded after the game. Unable to unlock the Spencer County defense for most of the first half, the Jackets finally broke through in the 28th minute on a solo effort goal by Owen Damm for his 14th goal of the season. Damm stole the ball deep in the Bears half of the field and before the defense could swarm, Damm fired a shot to the bottom left corner of the goal, just past a diving Jason Nichols to put the Jackets up 1-0. Moments earlier the Jackets looked to have broken the seal with a goal tucked inside the right post, but there was dispute over whether the ball caromed back out because it hit the post or the wheel used to move the goal. “The ref didn’t see it and I can’t blame him for not giving something that he doesn’t see,” said Atanga of the decision not to allow a goal. Paired with his packed in defense, Nichols played well. The Bears’ junior goalkeeper made countless saves of varying degrees of difficulty on a wide array of shots. Many Yellow Jacket tries came from distance in an effort to draw the Bears defense out and gradually open up more space. Even when Woodford County did get good looks at goal, Nichols was well positioned to make point blank saves by coming off his line to meet the attackers at close range. Both sides grew more exasperated throughout the game as Woodford dominated possession with little to show for it on the scoreboard. A handful of yellow cards were given out including two to Bears forwards with little to do but spearhead the defensive effort. Despite the frustrating night, Atanga believes the game will be a net positive for his team, even more so than the blowouts against other district opponents. “It was good for us to experience that. It will really help us down the road. I much prefer to play games like this than a few of the games we’ve played this season where it’s too easy and they (the Jackets) lose concentration. Because we haven’t faced that before we had to work it out. We tried some things but just couldn’t unlock their defense. Fortunately, we got the goal we needed and because it’s a district game, it’s just the win that matters.” The win was the Jackets’ seventh in a row after a 4-1 win Saturday afternoon at Danville. There’s just four games left in the regular season for Atanga’s team and the Yellow Jackets will be expected to win all of them. Next up is a home match against Madison Central on Thursday night. The Indians come into Community Stadium fresh off a 2-0 victory over Western Hills but are just 6-5-3 on the season. The Jackets were ranked No. 7 in the state by the most recent Maher Rankings, a few spots ahead of another 8th Region team, Oldham County. Woodford is the highest ranked team in the 8th Region and also ranks first in the region in the newly released KHSAA Ratings Percentage Index with a value of .647, just ahead of Oldham County’s .606. Spencer County’s RPI was .458 heading into Tuesday night’s contest.