- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The dream became a reality Tuesday night for the North Hardin Trojans.
Senior Devin Sowells scored again, junior Taylor Yates had two points, senior Steve Packer notched two assists off long throw-ins and senior Elijah Linscott buried visiting Louisville Fern Creek with a pair of quick-fire insurance goals late as the 5th Region Tournament champion Trojans pulled away from the 6th Region champion Tigers, 4-1 in the opening round of the state tournament at Troy Wade Field.
“This is unreal in a way,” said Sowells, who scored the lone goal in the region final win over Central Hardin before scoring the Trojans’ first goal Tuesday less than 7 minutes in off a right-side cross from Yates. “This is hard to believe, but at the same time, we’ve worked really hard for this.”
As hard as the Trojans (19-6) worked against the Tigers (15-5-3), they made it look easy and looked primed to blow the game open after Yates headed in a lengthy right-side throw-in from Packer with 7:53 to play before the break.
“Taylor was kind of discovered midway through the year when we moved him from outside mid to forward,” veteran North Hardin coach Jim Stone said of Yates, who had a hat trick in the Trojans’ region semifinal rout of Bardstown Bethlehem. “He’s probably the most improved player on the team overall. He’s stepped up his game and is using his speed.”
Packer, meanwhile, is using his arms and Linscott is using his family as motivation.
The Trojans tallied their final goal with 17:10 left as Linscott finished off another long throw-in – again from the right side – from Packer.
“It’s hard for the other teams to defend,” Packer said of the long throw-in duty he shares with Sowells. ”You can catch them off-guard and they’re not prepared for a deep ball.”
Linscott was prepared for it, though. And less than 10 minutes earlier, Linscott put the Trojans up 3-1 when he took a pass from sophomore Geoff Nelson and chipped the ball into the net.
“Geoff played a perfect bouncing ball to me,” Linscott said. “I saw their keeper come off his line and I said, ‘To heck with it.’ I tapped it over his head and it just dropped in.”
Stone said the goal was a microcosm of the level of play Linscott is playing at right now. Linscott, the first player in school history with 40 career goals and 40 career assists, not surprisingly leads the team in both goals (22) and assists (17).
“Their goalie came out and Elijah has such a good touch and he’s feeling it right now,” Stone said. “He’s been on a tear and he’s been lighting up the scoreboard for the last eight or nine games. He’s really playing at a high level.”
Fern Creek cut its deficit to 2-1 less than 3 minutes into the second half as junior Cody Oaks headed in a 35-yard free kick from junior Abdikadir Hussein, but didn’t threaten too much afterward.
“That lit a fire under us when they scored,” said Sowells, whose team has kept its last 11 opponents from scoring multiple goals. “It was like, ‘Oh no, we’re not having this.’”
North Hardin advances to the state quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lexington Henry Clay, where the Trojans will get a rematch with 9th Region champion Boone County. The Rebels (19-3-3) earned a 1-0 win Tuesday against 10th Region champion Harrison County.
The Trojans beat Boone County, 2-1 on Sept. 7 in the John Hardin Bulldog Challenge as Linscott was involved in both goals.
Prior to Tuesday, the Trojans’ best state tournament result was a first-round loss at Marshall County in 1991 – when Linscott’s father Terry, one of North Hardin’s two current assistants, was the Trojans’ star.
After Tuesday, Dad no longer has bragging rights, Linscott said.
“He’s not going to hear the end of this,” Linscott said. “Ever.”
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.