MOREHEAD Saturday was a great day for Santiago Gutierrez to score his first high school soccer goal.
Ashland’s senior midfielder liked it so much, he did it twice more. His hat trick led the defending 16th Region Tournament champion Tomcats to a 5-0 win over Greenup County in the quarterfinals at Rowan County’s Paul Ousley Stadium.
Not bad for someone who played stopper last year.
“For the couple of last years I’ve been trying to focus more on possession, trying to just give assists, not trying to go out so much and try to score,” Gutierrez said. “It just happened I had the opportunities and had the chances to take those shots.”
Ashland coach Preston Freeman said it might be time to quit calling the Tomcats a young squad.
“We’ve had all year to work out of being a young team,” Freeman said. “We have some good older kids. … We’re still a young team age-wise and year-wise, but I think they’re starting to come into their own, playing a little bit beyond their years sometimes.”
Gutierrez needed about eight minutes to score his three goals. In the 44th minute, he scored unassisted from 25 yards away to the bottom right corner.
“The ball just ricocheted from one of the defenders, and I settled it,” he said. “First, I tried to just look at the corners to see if I could get that ball wide open and get that cross in.
“I saw that I had time and space for me to take another touch; I just took the shot.”
Gutierrez added the second score in the 46th minute; Luke Stahler started the play with a long run down the left side and a crossing pass, which Gutierrez tapped in.
“They were playing a lot of balls to the outside and then bringing it back in with some through balls,” said Greenup County coach Jamie Gilliam, who replaced Brad Quillen last month. “We told them at halftime to watch for it; unfortunately, our players didn’t heed the warning.”
Parker Miller assisted on Gutierrez’s third goal in the 52nd minute.
When Gutierrez didn’t find the back of the Musketeers’ net, Miller did. He scored Ashland’s first goal in the 16th minute and the last one in the 68th.
Greenup County (4-15) had a first-half opportunity, too. In the 13th minute, Rylee Gilliam took the ball down the right wing, but his shot was wide right.
“Wide right” was a recurring theme. In the 28th minute, Greenup County’s Aaron Brown’s shot missed.
The Tomcats (10-12-1) meet Rowan County in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Monday.
“We’re still No. 1,” Gutierrez said. “We’re still the ones that have the chance to win the region one more time.”