Two wins over the weekend were rock-solid evidence to a Scott County boys' soccer team of one senior, four juniors, eight sophomores and four freshmen that they can compete and even conquer challenges at the varsity level.
Tuesday evening, the Cardinals kept on proving they belong by pushing the defending 42nd District champion Bryan Station Defenders to the brink.
It was a scoreless stalemate until the ominous 13-minute mark of the second half turned into the witching hour. Fernando Borjas' blast from 35 yards rattled off the crossbar and into the net with 12:39 to go, boosting Bryan Station to a 2-0 triumph.
“Our defense held tight. We get the transition from offense to defense,” SC coach Willie Wilson said. “We started to fade with about 10 minutes left in the first half. They were really putting the pressure on us.”
Steven Mahirwe provided the insurance goal for Bryan Station (7-5-2, 2-1) off a drive and a drop pass by Ivan Nkinzo with 10:50 remaining.
Scott County (2-9, 0-1) kept Nkinzo, the Defenders' leading scorer with 10 goals, in check for most of the evening.
“Ivan was staying more wide. He wasn't playing for the breakaway ball,” Wilson said. “That last one when he got around, we just didn't shift quick enough. A lot of times when you get more tired, and this is something they'll learn, sometimes you have to give them another half-step that you weren't giving in the first half, because you're getting a little worn.”
In addition to another rock-solid performance by junior goalkeeper Logan Jean, Scott County had notable defensive saves from Hayden Britsch, Gage Bowling and Nick Sparks and tireless midfield effort from Hunter Flynt and Josh Adams.
Adams filled in at keeper for much of the weekend tournament at Madison Central, which featured wins over Holy Cross Covington and Bourbon County.
“They were interesting wins. Josh faced two PKs (penalty kicks) and stopped the second one against Holy Cross,” Wilson said. “It's nice having Josh back from having to be jack-of-all-trades and losing him out of the defense.”
Even in a season-opening, eight-game skid, SC stood tall for a half against the likes of Lexington Catholic and Great Crossing. The Cards trailed the Knights only 1-0 at halftime and led the Warhawks 2-1 shortly after intermission.
Arguably no previous performance surpassed 67 scoreless minutes against Bryan Station, whose only losses are to region favorites Henry Clay and Tates Creek and opponents from Missouri and Ohio.
“If you sit back long enough, there's always a chance they could get you,” Wilson said. “They got around our outside. We can fix that. There are drills you can do to fix that. We're playing very hard. You're seeing the younger guys start to come on.”
Scott County had most of its modest scoring opportunities in the first half, forcing two saves from Station goalkeeper Zakary Reed.
Eduardo Flores' header off a corner kick and Flynt's high blast with a direct kick were the Cardinals' closest looks at the lead.
Britsch had a straight-on direct kick and Jacob Bange a corner in a one-minute window early in the second half, but SC couldn't get the follow-up touch in either case.
“I hope they know we can match with them, we can play with them,” Wilson said. “It's just a matter of keeping it going past (that point on the clock). We'll get there.”
Winning was good medicine for a youthful, tireless Scott County side that has steadily improved since a 6-1 loss to Great Crossing in the season opener.
“They deserved that,” Wilson said of the recent wins, “They're not repeating a lot of the same mistakes, and that's a great thing. Tonight our clearances were better. We were really suspect over the tournament. We worked on it yesterday, and they didn't back down. Nick saved one right out of the mouth of the goal.”
It's a challenging district slate that gets no easier. SC travels to Frederick Douglass on Thursday evening.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.