With its season on the line, Boyd County played its most complete game of the year.
Senior Jonah Black recorded a hat trick and the Lions’ defense pitched a shutout in defeating Russell, 4-0, in the opening round of the 63rd District Tournament on Monday at the Russell Soccer Complex.
After the game, Boyd County coach William Ferguson admitted his voice was a little hoarse, but that didn’t stop him from screaming to his team that it was one the best games they played all year.
“It was a complete game and it was a good time to bring one out,” Ferguson said after finally taking a sigh of relief.
Sharing the same district, Russell and Boyd County have built up a rivalry over the past few years. Monday’s physical matchup was no different.
But the Lions were able to out-muscle the Red Devils when it came to 50-50 chances, as most balls that went in the air ended up being touched by a Boyd County player first.
Ferguson said that when his team got out of school on Monday, the coaching staff told them the key factor to the game would end up being 50-50 chances.
“That’s what we wanted and that’s what we told them,” Ferguson said. “ My assistant coaches did a wonderful job and we told them we have to win the balls out of the air — every one of them. And they answered the challenge.”
Russell coach Marty Torgrimson echoed Ferguson’s statements, saying Boyd County just worked harder for the ball.
“Boyd County came to play and they deserved the win,” Torgrimson said. “They came out with intensity, desire and a lot of passion. They won a lot of balls normally they shouldn’t have won. But they wanted it and they earned it.”
After both teams struggled to get open looks, it was Black who put the first point on the board in the 27th minute.
Black received a pass right in front of the box, but was stopped by a Russell defender. He then faked out the Red Devil and put the ball in the back left corner of the net.
“It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Black said. “The moves just come to me and I just do what I do.”
Black was then set up again in the 36th minute when the Russell keeper touched the ball before it reached the goal box.
With a free kick right outside the box, Black put a shot over a line of Russell defenders that found the top left corner of the goal.
“(Black) is just unbelieveable,” Ferguson said. “He works so hard and he told us before the game, ‘We’re not going to lose this, I’m not going to let it happen.’”
Down 2-0 in the 61st minute, Russell got a break and received a free kick after a foul was called on Boyd County.
Similar to Black’s goal earlier, Red Devils senior Joseph Fischer put the kick past the Boyd County line of defenders, but it bounced off the crossbar and into the Lions’ possession.
A few seconds later, Black found himself one-on-one with the Russell keeper and completed the hat trick with his third goal.
“I guess it was exemplary of how everything else went for us — just a tad short,” Torgrimson said.
Boyd County got one more goal that came in the 68th minute. After the Lions won another ball in the air, Jordan Smith was able to put the ball over a charging goal keeper.
Coming into the game, Russell had won seven straight, including a big win over state-ranked Bishop Brossart. And even though his team fell short of its goals, Torgrimson was happy with how his team matured over the season.
“My objective is not necessarily our win-loss record. It’s to help develop these boys into men,” Torgrimson said. “This is without a doubt a good year. A lot of these guys have worked really hard and have overcome a lot of shortcomings. We’ve played a lot of kids that have never been starters or stars before and they have stepped up and worked hard to get here.”
Boyd County will play Ashland for the 63rd District championship on Wednesday. Most importantly for Black, he gets a chance to avenge the Lions’ 16th Region championship loss from last year.
“Getting back in the region is just fantastic, especially after how last year’s ended,” Black said. “We need another chance to redeem ourselves.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.