BOYS' PREP SOCCER: John Hardin stays unbeaten with 4-1 win over North Hardin (08/27)

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By Nathaniel Bryan



By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com RADCLIFF — Before his Bulldogs walked onto the field Tuesday night, second-year John Hardin High School boys’ soccer coach Alex Shearer – who watched his team fall behind a goal less than a minute into its last match – told his team to be sure to come out and set the tone right this time. Grant Zigos heard him loud and clear. A junior forward, Zigos got his hat trick started less than 30 seconds into the game and junior midfielder Kevin Stafford added a momentum-halting goal later in the first half as the host Bulldogs beat the North Hardin Trojans, 4-1 in both teams’ 10th District openers. “We’ll take that type of start every day. It’s nice to be on the other end for a change,” Shearer said. “I don’t care who you are, a start like that will put you back on your heels.” Shortly after the opening kickoff, John Hardin worked the ball down the wing to junior forward Alex Dudley, whose cross found a wide-open Zigos and an early 1-0 Bulldog lead. After that, veteran North Hardin coach Jim Stone said his Trojans (1-2 overall, 0-1 in the six-team district) were staggered. “The whole outcome of the game was changed in the first 30 seconds,” said Stone, whose team dropped its second straight game after opening the season with a 3-0 win over 2007 5th Region Tournament semifinalist Bullitt East. “That sets the tone. It set the momentum. The kids know they can play with (John Hardin). But when you dig yourself a hole, it’s hard to get out of it.” Zigos and Stafford spent the remaining 39 minutes and 33 seconds of the first half pulling out the equivalent of an excavator to make North Hardin’s hole deeper. In the 11th minute, John Hardin junior midfielder Eddie Legaspi fed a through ball to Stafford, who set the table for Zigos’ second goal. With just 43 seconds showing on the scoreboard, Stafford gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 halftime lead when he finished off a right-side cross from junior midfielder Kevin Owens. “I thought that was pretty huge,” said Zigos, who has 11 goals and one assist on the season. “If (North Hardin) would have scored the goal, they would have been right back in it, but once we got that third one, they didn’t have much of a chance.” Both teams had their chances in the second half, but there weren’t near as many offensive fireworks after halftime as there were in the first 40 minutes. John Hardin’s bid at its third shutout in six games lasted more than 65 minutes as North Hardin junior forward Tyler Blankenship scored with 13:42 remaining in the game off an assist from senior forward Marcellus Hobbs. But that was all the offense to be mustered by North Hardin, which features some of the fastest players in the area in Hobbs, sophomore midfielder Andrew Stewart and senior midfielder Jacquez Leandre. “We bodied up to them and we had to play physical with them,” Legaspi said. “We couldn’t let them get a step on us. We had to stick with them.” Zigos finished off his second hat trick of the year by knocking in the rebound of a shot off the right post by senior defender Justin Collins. The win lifted the Bulldogs, the reigning 5th Region champions, to their third consecutive 6-0 start. Shearer said it hasn’t been hard to keep his fast-starting Bulldogs grounded. “We haven’t played our best soccer yet,” he said. “Usually I am a pretty positive coach, but until we finally play that perfect game, I’ll always have things we can work on.” Zigos agreed. “We haven’t played up to our potential,” he said. “But that should come.” John Hardin won the junior varsity game, 2-1. UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Bullitt East at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in a rematch of last year’s 5th Region Tournament semifinals. North Hardin hosts Louisville Atherton at 7 p.m. Thursday. Nathaniel Bryan can be reached

at 505-1758