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The joy of beating an old nemesis for the first time since 2006 was intense, but short-lived for the Anderson County boys' soccer.
The 2-1 victory over Woodford County, the Bearcats' first over Woodford since 2006 and only the second in the last decade was unquestionably sweet. Fans sent phone messages and Facebook posts as soon as the final second ticked off the clock at the Anderson pitch Saturday night.
But Bearcat coach Brett Morris cautioned that, as big as the win over the highly-regarded Yellow Jackets was, more than six weeks of regular season soccer remain before the 25th District Tournament.
“Obviously we're happy to get the win, but you won't see us jumping up and down like we've just won the World Cup,” Morris said. “We're already focused on the next match (played Tuesday night at Boyle County after press time). Maybe with a younger team, but we've got experienced guys and we know better than to hang our entire year on an early-season match.”
Still, it was one of the finest moments Anderson County soccer has produced. A program that has historically been solid, but has always seemed to be a notch below the central Kentucky powers, Anderson took a huge step toward claiming the top seed in the District 25 tournament. The Bearcats defeated a Woodford team that was ranked seventh in the state in the coaches' pre-season poll.
“Our seniors played their guts out and showed the kind of confidence we'll need to have if we want to be a serious contender,” Morris said. “Offensively, (Steven) Pulcifer was huge, (Romeo) Nava was steady, (Jayson) Barnes was a blur and (Lyndon) Stucker was dangerous. We need all four of those guys to be like that every night. Sure, we always have a strategy going into a match, but strategy doesn't mean much if you don't have the guys to execute and we executed just well enough to get the 'W' this time.”
Pulcifer put Anderson up 2-0, scoring on assists from Barnes and Stucker, but the Anderson defense stymied the Yellow Jackets in the final 15 minutes after they had halved the lead.
“We lean heavily on our defenders to understand time and situation and once Woodford hit that late goal, Jared Stephens and Hunter Martin did a good job of locking down the goal area and making sure we didn't allow the equalizer,” Morris said. “Bill Rose is a steady force in the back and Will Schaefer played through a ton of pain over the last 10 minutes of the match so we could hold on to the win. Will is coming back after a 6 week absence due to a broken toe and he's still nowhere near being in game shape, but he understood the situation and gritted his teeth and fought through the pain until the final whistle.”
Anderson, now 4-2 on the year, got a leg up in the district seeding race with a win over the team that has won three of the six district titles since the current alignment went into effect in 2004.
Woodford, however, is seeking its first district crown since 2007.
“Woodford lost a ton of experience to graduation last year and while they are still extremely talented, they are a bit younger than we are. We lean heavily on the leadership and example set by our upperclassmen. They understand that Anderson vs. Woodford isn't just another game so I think we came out with a measure of intensity that set the pace early and we fed off
Anderson still must deal with two-time defending district champion Franklin County, who the Bearcats will play on Sept. 28 in Frankfort, in order to get the top seed and be in the opposite bracket from the other top district teams during the tournament. Anderson also will be entering prestigious tournaments at Scott County and South Oldham in the coming weeks.
“It's an important win for sure because of district seeding implications, but they don't hand out district titles for regular season wins. We've beaten plenty of highly ranked teams over the last several years, but no single win or single loss will ever make or break our season. No doubt it's a solid win for us and we'll enjoy it for the evening and then it's back to work preparing for the next opponent. I'm sure we'll see Woodford again down the line and we'll be ready for them as I'm sure they'll be ready for us. And I guarantee they will look much different the next time we see them.”
Bearcats defeat Madison Central, Shelby
Anderson picked up a solid win at Madison Central last Tuesday, defeating the Indians 3-2. Barnes and Nava scored off assists from Stucker and Austin Smallwood, while Pulcifer found the net on a penalty kick.
Morris said that after a pair of early-season losses, the victory was “an important one for us to regain our confidence after getting rattled against Mercer and Collins.”
The Bearcats refocused after the Collins loss to turn in a complete game against a team that upset 10th-ranked East Jessamine on Saturday.
“I learned a lot about my team against Madison,” Morris said. “We were resilient, intense, intelligent and composed. We showed a ton of maturity in bouncing back to get a win against a very good team.
Thursday, the Bearcats routed out-manned Shelby County, 9-0, for another road win. Pulcifer led the onslaught with three goals, while Stucker scored twice. Nava, Stephens, Bamberger and Josh Doolin all found the net for Anderson.
Stucker recorded two assists, while Nava, Pulcifer, Smallwood, Drew Bamberger and Daniel Peach all had one.
“(There is) not much to say about the Shelby game,” Morris said. “They are trying to rebuild after the majority of their athletes chose to attend Collins this year. To their credit, they never quit fighting and made us earn every opportunity we had. I feel they will be extremely competitive again in just a few years.”
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.