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SOCCER: Hawks fall in region opener

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By Nathaniel Bryan

BARDSTOWN - Looking across the Cardinal Stadium sideline Sunday evening
at host Nelson County High School, it was hard to determine who won the
Boys' 5th Region Soccer Tournament's late quarterfinal.

The winning team, eight-time defending 19th District Tournament champion
Bardstown Bethlehem, looked like it had lost and the losing team, the
18th District runner-up LaRue County Hawks, was smiling and beaming and
holding its head high.

After giving the victorious Eagles all they could handle before
eventually falling, 2-1, prolific senior scorer Alex Cook said his
defeated Hawks more than held their own in their region debut.

In fact, they put "LaRue County soccer on the map."

"We played our hearts out and we left it all out there on that field,"
Cook said. "None of us wanted that to be our last game."

And for a while, it was looking like it might not be.

Playing through a wind that even Winnie the Pooh would have to admit was
blustery and struggling to figure out LaRue County's centralized
pack-it-in defense, the Eagles (15-5-1) grew frustrated against the
Hawks (15-6). At halftime, Bethlehem had nothing to show for its
troubles.

"The wind had a little to do with it, but I think they had a lot to do
with it," veteran Bethlehem coach Tim Hurst said while pointing toward
LaRue County's sideline. "They played extremely well and had a great
game plan. They knew what we liked to do and they did a good job of
taking us out of our game plan."

Keep in mind this was a LaRue County team which gave up three goals in
the district final to a Marion County team that Fort Knox, John Hardin,
North Hardin and Elizabethtown all held to two goals or less. And a
LaRue County team that was playing without two starters who were red
carded in the district final. And a LaRue County team that had been
outscored 33-0 in its previous six all-time meetings - all losses - with
Bethlehem.

"Going into the game, the boys were determined to make it a good game,"
said coach Chuck Holloway, who founded the Hawks' program. "They said
that. They proved that. And they showed that."

The Hawks played even with the Eagles for 47:08, including the first
45:05 before Bethlehem senior Ben Rossoll dribbled through LaRue
County's 18-yard box and finally got one past LaRue County sophomore
goalkeeper Holden Blair, who had nine saves.

"We were getting very frustrated," Rossoll said. "They kept their shape
well and they kept their composure. They made it difficult to find any
holes in their defense."

Instead of laying down because their rock-solid defense had finally been
broken, Rossoll said the Hawks shocked the Eagles by going on the attack
and becoming the aggressors.

"After our first goal, they got more energy and they took it to us for a
while," Rossoll said. "I think we lost our focus and thought that one
goal would be good enough. And as they showed, it definitely was not."

One goal wasn't going to be enough with Cook on the field.

He tucked away his 56th goal of the season and 81st of his career with
13:12 left in the match after he was headed the ball by senior Mason
Morgan, who notched his ninth assist of the season.

"He's a good player and the types of flicks he used showed that,"
Rossoll said of Cook, who led the state with a 2.94 goals-per-game
average and was second in the regular season to Hopkinsville's Austin
Bucko in total goals. "He showed he's not just a level-of-competition
type of player, because he can do it against anyone at any time."

Cook said the secret to the Hawks' success was easy - effort.

"We played with heart all game and didn't back down from any challenge,"
he said. "We went up for every header and chased down every 50-50 ball.
We did all the little things."

Bethlehem advances to Tuesday's late semifinal at 8 p.m. against the
17th District champion North Hardin Trojans (16-6), who received a bye
during Friday's draw. North Hardin hammered the Eagles in the regular
season, 5-1 as Geoff Nelson scored twice and Kevin Gray, Kage Rhodes and
Taylor Yates had one goal each for the Trojans.

"I didn't want that to be our only meeting with them." Rossoll said. "So
it's nice to get to have another shot at them, especially since we've
gotten our defense turned around. It seems like we've got everything in
place."

The district final loss to Marion County and the region quarterfinal
loss to Bethlehem marks the only time this year the Hawks suffered
consecutive defeats. But Cook said they can't overshadow the Hawks'
season as a whole.

"This has been the best year in LaRue County soccer history," said Cook,
who earned All-Tournament Team honors along with senior midfielder
Marshall Metcalf, who shattered the LaRue County school record with 42
single-season assists. "Point blank."