Meeting for the fourth time this season, with a region title on the line, Marshall County and Calloway County gave it their all for 80 minutes and in the end, it was the Lakers winning their second straight region championship 3-2 over the Marshals. They will move on to the semi-state round next week against Hopkinsville.
The Marshals won the two regular season games over Calloway County, 3-2 in both, and a 2-0 shut-out in the district championship. Jacob Smith, Calloway’s leading scorer, scored all four goals for the Lakers in the two regular season losses to the Marshals and on Thursday, put three in the net to give them the First Region Championship.
The first half was scoreless and the defensive effort on both sides looked like a game lining up for a one goal victory for either team. That changed quickly in the second half with a goal by Austin Stockdale less than three minutes in to put the Marshals up 1-0, but five minutes later, Smith found the net to tie the game 1-1.
The Marshals took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Daniel Gardner following a direct kick by Bryson Penn, tied again by the Lakers three minutes later when a hand ball foul in the box set Smith up for the penalty kick right in front of the goal.
Eric Hicks just missed the net on a header after a throw in by Gardner near the 25th minute of the half and things heated up with Gardner and Calloway’s Ian Clark both picking up yellow cards as the game intensified, with another yellow card issued to Calloway’s Lee Gamble.
Penn just missed on a direct kick that went off the crossbar with 12 minutes to go then Smith knocked in his third goal for the hat trick with 10 minutes remaining and the Lakers held on for the 3-2 win.
“Very proud…they are obviously very upset…they didn’t want it to end this way and I didn’t either”, Coach Donnie Heath said. “If you watch the game, it wasn’t due to lack of effort, it wasn’t due to lack of technical ability or decisions or anything like that. They just made one more play than we made tonight and we’ve got to give them credit for that.”
Heath credited his seniors with their efforts over the past couple of years to get to this point for the opportunity to play for a regional championship, their character and attitude.
“The seniors fought all night long”, Heath said. “They set the tone all year-long and I couldn’t be more proud. What they’ve done to kind of get the program back to where it belongs…district championship, region runner-up…these are the places we expect to be. To put the work in and see the fruits of their labor, even though we came up short tonight, they kind of reset the foundation and this is going to be very good for us moving forward to next year.”
Penn who led the Marshals this season with 47 goals, was selected as the Region One Player of the Year and Heath the Coach of the Year. Heath said, “I appreciate the award, I appreciate the recognition…but that’s more a compliment to our staff and to our program.”
The Marshals finish the season 19-4-1 and out-scored their opponents in those 19 wins 105 to 14.