FLEMINGSBURG – Grabbing the first goal in an elimination game plays a huge role in deciding who goes home and who keeps playing.
Fleming County made sure they were on the right side of that against Bath County Tuesday night in the 61st District semifinal. The Panthers scored two goals in the first eight minutes of the contest as they rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Panthers, ensuring them their first regional tournament berth since 2013 and a shot at a district title against Rowan County Thursday evening in Flemingsburg.
It was Christian Fronk putting the first blemish on the scoreboard, converting a shot off a throw-in from near the Wildcats left corner and up into the top right half of the net.
“We expected them to start fast and I told my boys we needed to start fast too. I couldn’t have asked for a better start, it got us rolling and helped set the tone,” Panthers coach Danny Stunson said.
The Wildcats would respond four minutes later however, as Devon Hunt’s header deflected off a defender and into the Panthers net to make it 1-1 in the 6th minute.
“They always play us tough. We’ve lost three years in a row in the same game to them. My boys work hard. We’re trying to build respect here in the community for soccer and I feel we are getting there. Still got a long way to go, but hopefully we can keep it going,” Stunson said.
Fronk quickly responded two minutes later, making it 2-1 Panthers and a polar opposite then when the first time these two met, a 1-0 Panthers victory in overtime.
Fronk got in on the action again 25 minutes later as his cross to Lukas Pinkley was set up for him to blast one into the net, making it 3-1 Panthers. The score would remain that way headed into the half.
Fleming County’s defense put the clamps on in the second half, allowing just two shots and only one of them on goal as they pitched a shutout.
“I’ve got a couple kids that really work hard defensively and we feel comfortable with them back there. They’ve got a great team and a couple of really good players and we knew when they were in a certain position on the field on what to expect. They mixed it up a little bit in the second half, our boys recognized it and took advantage of a couple of those things,” Stunson said.
Zack Wagoner started the onslaught of Panther goals in the final 22 minutes as a couple of deflections off a corner kick found the ball to him and he’d find the back of the net to make it 4-1.
Hayden Ramey converted a breakaway in the 64th minute to pretty much seal the deal for the Panthers while Cooper Dotson converted on a free kick to make it 6-1 Panthers with five minutes to play.
Now the task at hand is a tough one, taking on a Rowan County team that knocked them off 5-0 in the regular season. The match will begin at 8 p.m. in Flemingsburg.
“They are always tough. Great team. Great coaches. We enjoy a good relationship with their team, always have a good game. We’re going to have to be better in order to win that game. Being at home helps,” Stunson said.
COPHER CAPITALIZES FOR LADY CATS
FLEMINGSBURG – Sadara Copher capitalizes on opportunities.
The first time the Bath County prolific goal scorer played Fleming County, she netted four goals in a 4-1 Lady Cats victory over the Lady Panthers. On Tuesday in the 61st District Final at Fleming County, the senior scored three goals as Bath advanced to the championship on Thursday to face Rowan County.
“She just stepped up when we needed her the most. Won the loose balls, took it to the net. She’s going to do that when we need her and step up when we need her too,” Lady Cats coach Katie Lunsford said. “It wouldn’t be her job if we had 10 others out there that were really doing what we needed her to do.”
Copher struck first in the contest, converting with her powerful left foot in the 18th minute to give the Lady Cats a 1-0 lead.
From there, the Lady Panthers controlled the rest of the half. After multiple chances, Haylee Applegate, the Lady Panthers leading scorer, knotted the game up at 1-1 in the 31st minute. They’d continue to pour the pressure on, but unable to find the back of the net before the half as Bath County’s Madelyne English recorded six saves in the first half, including a couple diving shots.
“We had plenty of opportunities and we just couldn’t afford to not hit those. That would have changed the game I think tremendously. You go into halftime up 2-1 or 3-1, I think they were getting a little tired but found their second win,” Lady Panthers coach Bobby Adams said.
The Lady Cats would respond as the aggressors in the second half, putting numerous shots up, the majority from Copher, Maisie Hendrix eating the first couple up. After a couple of solid opportunities from the Lady Panthers, one that hit the crossbar and another that sailed over it, Copher capitalized on a counter attack to give Bath County a 2-1 lead in the 55th minute.
“Just hustle. Honestly it wasn’t our best game. Our gameplan was to be a bit more controlled and we just did not have that tonight. We were lucky we had the intensity to get the job done,” Lady Cats coach Katie Lunsford said.
A little over 15 minutes later, it was Copher again putting the finishing touches on the contest as she beat a diving Hendrix to make it 3-1 in the 71st minute.
“She has a fake right and will go left. And we know this. She’s just very fast and very elusive,” Adams said.
Fleming County, showing marked improvement throughout the season, finished with an 11-4-1 record, but were unable to advance out of the first round in district play for the fourth straight season.
“Games like this in the district, we’ve got to convert on those shot opportunities. This has happened to us before and we’ve got to hit those. It’s frustrating but we’ll bounce back and move forward,” Adams said.
Bath County will now face Rowan County in Thursday’s final at 6 p.m. The Lady Vikings beat Bath 4-0 in their regular season matchup.
FLEMING COUNTY 6, BATH COUNTY 1
Goals: (FC) Fronk 2nd minute, (BC) Hunt 6th minute, (FC) Fronk 8th minute, (FC) Pinkley 33rd minute, (FC) Wagoner 58th minute, (FC) Ramey (64th minute), (FC) Dotson 75th minute
Shots (On Goal); Bath 8 (3), Fleming 15 (9)
Corner Kicks: Bath 2, Fleming 2
Saves: Bath 3 (Patton), Fleming 2 (Allex)
Records: Bath County 6-8, Fleming County 12-7-1
BATH COUNTY 3, FLEMING COUNTY 1
Goals: Copher (18th minute), Applegate (31st minute), Copher (56th minute), Copher (71st minute)
Shots (On Goal): Bath 16 (10), Fleming 20 (13)
Corner Kicks: Bath 4, Fleming 1
Saves: Bath 12 (English), Fleming 7 (Hendrix)
Records: Bath County 10-4-1, Fleming County 11-4-1