Fresh off their third straight 17th District Tournament championship, the Elizabethtown Panthers are one of three teams in the six-team 5th Region Tournament field with at least 10 wins.

And their head coach says the Panthers are playing with a lot of confidence and determination as the regional begins today at Nelson County High School.

“We believe if we play with a certain amount of determination other teams can’t reach, it only gives us a greater advantage with our skill to come out on top,” coach Corey Yates said. “The boys seem to be realizing this, and I hope we can keep building each time out because it’s been fun watching them bring it together for postseason.”

The Panthers, 10-4-0, carry a three-game winning streak into Tuesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against the winner of today’s 3 p.m. region-opening game between Thomas Nelson (11-1-1) and Taylor County (9-6-1).

Central Hardin (10-3-1), the 17th District Tournament runnerup, meets Bardstown (6-8-1) in today’s 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal.

“I think the tournament draw has played into our favor, overall,” Central Hardin coach Jaymes Varela said. “I think that we have the potential to run it back for a third time with E’town on Thursday, but we both have to get there first.

“Of course, we have two games we still need to get through before we look toward Thursday’s game – and those games will be tough,” he added. “I think the same could be said for the top half of the bracket, too. Thomas Nelson has been playing some quality soccer this year, and I think they’re ready to give it their all, too. It’ll be an interesting week.”

The Bruins own a 2-0 win over Bardstown on Oct. 1.

The winner of the Central Hardin-Bardstown matchup plays Marion County (7-4-3) at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Central Hardin hasn’t faced Marion County this season.

Elizabethtown hasn’t faced Thomas Nelson or Taylor County this season. The Panthers played Thomas Nelson last year and tied 2-2, while beating Taylor County, 5-1, in the region final a year ago.

The tournament final is 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Our boys are hungry, so we are looking forward to this week, even more than district, which could be a scary thing for other teams,” Yates said. “I think we have a competitive draw. In years past, we have had the third game, therefore, it’s nice this year to have an extra day of rest, focus, and preparation.”

3RD REGION. Meade County opens play Monday at 5:30 p.m. against Owensboro Apollo at Muhlenberg County.

The Green Wave, 1-11-1, lost earlier this season to Apollo, 3-1.

The Eagles are 8-5-1.

Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at 270-505-1757 or jdalessio@thenewsenterprise.com

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