For Tait Pritchard and his Elizabethtown teammates, it was always about one thing: winning a 5th Region championship.

“My goal since I started playing varsity was to win a region championship,” he said. “We wanted to win the region championship and take it as far as we could. It was really important. I feel like the guys really played for each other. We had a common goal instead of individual goals.

“I feel like we came together as a group so well. After the people that we lost, I feel like we really bonded. Our chemistry has always been there, regardless of the differentiation of the guys on the team. We’ve always bonded well. We’ve always played for each other rather than playing as individuals and I feel that’s what has led us to success in a lot of different areas through the time I’ve been there.”

Pritchard was the top goal scorer on a team that went 21-3-2 and for those efforts, he was selected as All-Area Offensive Player of the Year. He finished with 21 points and three first-place votes, the same as Central Hardin senior Zach Mueller, who had 17 points. Elizabethtown’s Preston Thomas totaled 14 points and Meade County senior Lie’vi Stewart had 13 points. They each had a first-place vote.

“This means a lot,” Prit­chard said. “I feel like I’ve put a lot of time in for a long period of time. I want to thank anybody who saw me as that type of player, as well as my teammates for putting me in the right situations all the time throughout the season.”

Pritchard started playing the game at age 4.

“Soccer is great because of the people you meet and the transitions in the game,” he said. “I started out by playing rec league, transferred to Javanon and played for seven years, came back to E’town, didn’t play any club soccer, then I played in Vine Grove last year and played club for the first time in like three years. I met a lot of different people in a lot of different situations.

“There have been a lot of coaches I’ve encountered along the way and was able to develop myself from.”

One of those coaches is the Panthers’ Corey Yates.

“I love playing for Yates,” Pritchard said. “He was the JV coach when I was in seventh grade. My freshman year, he was the varsity coach, so I played for him all six years. He learned a lot and I learned a lot from him as the years progressed.”

Pritchard appreciates how his teammates handled this season.

“For me, it started last year. My class has always been together,” he said. “My junior year, the seniors that graduated like Clayton Elmore, Hogan Grey, all those guys really set a foundation for us to come up and be the same as they were. They were always encouraging guys and leading by example. There was never a split between classes. We were always together.”

He is now deciding on what happens next.

“Part of me wants to go to Kentucky and just focus on school,” Pritchard said. “Part of me wants to play because I don’t want to stop playing. There’s a lot of different things that go into this decision.”

He finished with 28 goals (tied for 28th in the state), 16 assists (30th) and 72 points (tied for 23rd).

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Elizabethtown junior Bryan Herringshaw totaled 21 points and three first-place votes to best Central Hardin sophomore Gabe Torres, who had 15 points and two first-place votes. The Panthers’ Ryan Hawkins had 13 points and Ty Been had 12 points. Those two, along with Meade County’s Colin Rice, all had a first-place vote.

“It’s kind of surprising because I know there are great defenders in our district,” Herringshaw said.

This was his first year of playing defense, being moved to center-back.

“Coach (Yates) tested it out when we scrimmaged Trinity,” he said. “I obviously made a few mistakes back there, but he liked me there and said, ‘We’re just gonna get better. We’re gonna keep on trying you there.’

“I’d always understood the position and the role of the position, but it was that game experience that really molded me into the center-back that I was. I had Ty back there and he’s always been a solid defender, so I was comfortable knowing that I had him and by mid-season, I was in stride with it.”

Herringshaw was a threat offensively, also, with his prowess of throw-ins.

“By the end of the year, after we had faced all these teams, I heard, ‘Get in the box, he’s throwing it,’” he said. “It’s fun being able to launch the ball and getting a couple of assists off of it. Coach stresses always attacking and always taking every chance you get. The attackers we had and the ball-winners we had, having an opportunity like that on corner kicks and throw-ins was huge because the more chances on goal you get means more goals.”

Herringshaw is one of 18 rostered players back in uniform.

“Obviously, we had some frustrating games where you’re just not scoring and where you’re not playing your greatest, but overall, we had a very successful year,” he said. “We’re not satisfied with getting knocked out in the first round of state. It motivates us to go even further. We’ve already talked in the offseason about what we can do better so next year when we come back, we can hit the ground even harder and go at it.

“It’s obviously huge that we’re losing seniors, but it happens every year and you have to adjust to it. I feel comfortable with the young talent we have coming in — they’re not nearly as capable or experienced at Tait right now, but I feel that as the season goes on and we play that tough competition, they’re gonna get used to it and whoever is in that position will score goals and make it happen.”

GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR. North Hardin senior Tyler Phoutharansy finished with 26 points and four first-place votes to edge Elizabethtown sophomore Brandon Parsons, who had 22 points and three first-place votes. Central Hardin senior Brendan Wright had 12 points and junior teammate Ridge Disselkamp had a first-place vote.

“It feels great, it’s like a going away present,” Phouth­aransy said.

He plans on attending ECTC for two years and then head to a business school and get a degree in business management and later would like to own a local business with his father.

“I like playing the big man in the box, the only thing standing between the ball and the goal,” said Phoutharansy, who is playing indoor in an adult league. “Soccer in general, I like communicating with others — telling everybody they’re important on the field.

“When you’re the captain, you’re telling these younger guys where to go and what to do, when they know the sport and some of them have the high IQ, I try to tell them to tell the other guys what to do to try to help turn them into a better leader.”

He finished with 116 saves for Coach Jim Stone and the 7-8-5 Trojans.

“He turned me into this monster of a man,” Phouth­aransy said. “Without coach’s advice and fitness training, I wouldn’t have this kind of build. Thanks to him, I go to the gym more and I see soccer as not just a finesse sport, but more of an aggressive sport. He’s a great guy. He likes to get in people’s head when it comes to coaching and I kind of like that about him. He’s a pretty fantastic coach, in my opinion.

“If it wasn’t for Coach Stone, being a leader wouldn’t have come as easily. I had to learn it myself and didn’t realized my full leadership potential until Coach Stone brought it out of me. It taught me how to get out of my shell. Now I’m in choir and gonna sing in a play soon. I have a solo and everything. They’re fun to be in. I didn’t know that until now.”

SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR. Eliza­bethtown’s Andrew Ballard won the award with 21 points and three first-place votes.

Central Hardin’s Welles Emery finished with 16 points, Been had 12 points, John Hardin’s Zach Owens had 10 points and Parsons had nine points. Owens had two first-place votes and Emery, Been and Parsons had one each.

“There are a lot of sophomores in the area who are talented, especially on my team, so to stand out in the coaches’ eyes means a lot,” Ballard said. “My passion for the game comes from my stepdad, Judd. He got me started on it over 10 years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I thrive to get better every time I go out there. Soccer, to me, stands out because it has its own level of talent and skill. You don’t have to be big to play soccer, you just have to outsmart everybody else.”

Ballard had seven goals and was second on the team with nine assists.

“Playing at E’town is great,” he said. “We have a good relationship with the coach. It’s a really good atmosphere. I’m good friends with everybody. We get along on and off the field. Coach knows when he needs to set us straight. He knows what to tell us at the right times, when to get us hyped, what we need to focus on for the next game, or in practice.

“I like playing wherever, but (attack mid) is my favorite position because it’s so versatile and it’s not as restricted as some of the positions. I feel like whenever I play, I try to bring new stuff to the field. I try to make my teammates better, along with me getting better.”

Ballard said he appreciates the atmosphere within the Panthers’ program.

“We hold everybody accountable,” he said. “If anyone is messing up on the field, we don’t try to put them down, we let them know what to fix and what to work on so it won’t happen again. The goal next year is to go from where we set the bar this year to go even farther, to make a postseason run.”

That means a bigger target on their backs.

“We’ve always thought that was pretty cool,” Ballard said. “We have to give it our all. We can’t slack off. Whoever it is, they don’t want us to win, so it’s fun knowing we’re getting their best.”

COACH OF THE YEAR. Yates had 31 points and five first-place votes to finish ahead of Central Hardin’s Justin Maddock’s 25 points and three first-place votes. Meade County’s Matt Pollock had seven points.

“To be selected as Coach of the Year for our area is an honor,” Yates said. “It simply means we have coachable players, they hold each other accountable, and we try to develop them as players and young men. My assistant coach, Judd Yates, does an amazing job developing young talent into formidable players — the coaches and players complement each other well in our program.

“We are fortunate in this area to have terrific coaches and players across the board that makes for an entertaining fall season.”

ALL-AREA BOYS’ SOCCER TEAM

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Tait Pritchard, Elizabethtown

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Bryan Herringshaw, Elizabethtown

KEEPER OF THE YEAR

Tyler Phoutharansy, North Hardin

SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR

Andrew Ballard, Elizabethtown

COACH OF THE YEAR

Corey Yates, Elizabethtown

FIRST TEAM

Zach Mueller, Central Hardin

Tait Pritchard, Elizabethtown

Preston Thomas, Elizabethtown

Silvestre Aguero, John Hardin

Tyler Phoutharansy, North Hardin

Lie’vi Stewart, Meade County

Alex Blair, North Hardin

Ryan Hawkins, Elizabethtown

Bryan Herringshaw, Elizabethtown

Liam Kaune, Fort Knox

Luis Aguero, John Hardin

SECOND TEAM

Ben Borgerding, Central Hardin

Andrew Ballard, Elizabethtown

Ty Been, Elizabethtown

Riley Kirkpatrick, Central Hardin

Brandon Parsons, Elizabethtown

Phoenix Compton, North Hardin

Austin Melchor, Central Hardin

Welles Emery, Central Hardin

Gabe Torres, Central Hardin

Kyle Wilcox, Central Hardin

Brooks Nelson, Meade County

HONORABLE MENTION

Central Hardin: Xander Allen, Ridge Disselkamp, Blake Kingman, Brendan Wright.

Elizabethtown: Bryce Bowers, Griffin Inman.

John Hardin: Juan Aguero, Garrett Bowman, Angel Diaz, Zach Owens, Aaron Varellas, Levi Wiggins

LaRue County: Caleb Altman, Darius Breckinridge, Clay Cecil

Meade County: Klayton Anschutz, Brandon Beasley, Hunter Butler, Robbie Butler, Mason Craycroft, Tristan Dutschke, Liam Reff, Colin Rice

North Hardin: Umberto Cazzuola, Drew Corder, Marcellus Jackson, Brayden Larue, Cayden Logsdon

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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