John Hardin loses late lead, falls in opener

It came down to the very end, but just didn’t go in its favor.

The John Hardin boys’ soccer team, which hosted a senior-laden Nelson County squad Tuesday in its season opener, battled back-and-forth from start to finish but ultimately fell short, 4-3 in an intriguing offensive-powered match.

John Hardin (0-1) trailed 1-0 early but scored two straight goals to jump in front. Nelson County (1-0) evened the scoreboard with a penalty kick midway through the second half and the Bulldogs almost immediately responded with a goal, but a Cardinals score with under two minutes remaining proved to be the difference.

“It was a good first game,” first-year John Hardin coach Kevin Stafford said. “We had some really good plays. We took the lead and I think got too relaxed when there was about eight minutes left. I think that’s when we let up a little bit.

“I just want them to believe. I hope this game shows ’em that we can score and we can compete with anybody for the full 80 minutes.”

Nelson County struck first with a goal from Jaren Brown at the 24:21 mark of the first half to lead 1-0 before Dakota Wilson’s score off a shot from the left side of the field helped John Hardin tie it just under six minutes later.

The Bulldogs scored another goal — this one from Chris Hamilton — to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.

The Cardinals evened things with a goal off a penatly kick at the 18:22 mark of the second, but John Hardin answered with a score of its own just 22 seconds later to jump in front 3-2.

Leading by a goal with just over three minutes left, Nelson County quickly found the back of the net twice to re-take the lead and seal it.

“I think the biggest thing right now is we’re playing with a lot of swingers that play JV and varsity,” Stafford said. “We need more depth on our bench, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve gotta play with what you got, so conditioning has been a very important thing because we know most of our guys are gonna have to play the full 80.”

Although Stafford and his crew would’ve liked to come out on top, he’s happy with how his players performed in their first tilt of the year.

“I was hoping for a win out of that one, but if we can compete with a team that has 11 seniors when we only have three and only a couple juniors and most of our team is freshmen an sophomores, I’m proud of ’em,” he said. “They fought hard and until the end.”

The Bulldogs will look to bounce back Thursday when they travel to Lincoln County for a 7:30 p.m. contest.

Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-505-1754 or

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