When Ethan Miller broke the 16th Region scoring record during his final district tournament, he wanted the recognition to be more synonymous with the name on the front of the jersey than his own.
The newly named and now two-time boys soccer All-Area Player of the Year wants the same thing for his latest achievement.
“I do take a lot of pride in it,” Miller said. “Now that I’m the All-Area Player (of the Year) two years in a row, I’m really glad to have East Carter’s name on it. I wouldn’t want to play for any other program.”
East Carter coach Quinn Huddle said Miller’s impact far exceeds his ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
“It’s been one of my favorite things about him as a player,” Huddle said. “It was never just about him. At every practice, every game and every team meeting, he was involved and wanted to make an impact. As a goal-scorer, it is easy to start thinking about yourself, but he was always willing to change positions or do whatever was asked of him.”
“I think that’s the most impressive thing about Ethan,” Huddle added. “He was always a great team player. He took a lot of pride about playing at East Carter. He also took a lot of pride in being a good teammate.”
The Raiders program has also experienced several historic moments in the last five seasons. East Carter made three trips to the state tournament during that time and played with high expectations this year after reaching the Final Four in 2019.
The Raiders fell to Ashland in the region championship, 2-1.
“With the current condition of COVID-19 and everything else, I think the season went pretty well,” Miller said. “I feel like we got a lot more games in than I expected. We didn’t get to play every single game this year. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t come out on the top of the region again.
“When people look back on this five-year span and have my name associated with that success, it really feels great.”
The Tomcats won their first region title since 2013 and won six of their last seven contests entering the state tournament. Second-year coach Preston Freeman said the team chemistry has developed over the course of the season and it paid off in the postseason.
“The kids and the seniors really bought in to what we wanted to do,” Freeman said. “We have worked from the ground up to develop something. The seniors were good leaders this year. We had a really good class coming and a good bunch of freshmen. The leadership of those older guys bringing those younger guys up made it all came together nicely.”
Freeman was named All-Area Coach of the Year. Individual honors were chosen by The Daily Independent sports staff.
The Ashland coach said a three-game stretch midway through the season in which the team dropped a pair of 6-0 decisions, to East Carter and Model, helped the Tomcats refocus and advance to the state quarterfinals.
“We had some tough practices after those two games,” Freeman said. “They put the work in that they needed to do. They wanted to be on the field, and they came together at the right time. There were definitely some ups and downs throughout the year. When the postseason came around, we were in sync.”
Miller’s scoring ability was in sync all season. The senior netted 30 goals this year and seven assists. His career scoring mark of 109 exceeded a record that stood nearly three decades.
“I think I have grown as a goal-scorer,” Miller said. “I grew up playing in the midfield. I didn’t really play forward until my sophomore year. My goal-scoring has definitely improved the most in the last four years.”
Huddle has coached Miller since second grade and has watched him improve in all facets of the game. He calls Miller a “leader by example” but when he does speak, he has the full attention of the team.
“Ethan has grown the most with his maturity,” Huddle said. “Teams are always game-planning against him with two or three defenders every single night. He knew what to expect. He worked as hard as he could to deal with it. … He was able to get beyond that and let it work in his favor.”
Huddle believes Miller’s dedication and work ethic will never be replaced but leaves something future players can aspire to in the future.
“He’s left the mentality that if you work hard and stay with it, you’re going to be successful,” Huddle said. “Ethan was the type of kid that everybody knew played soccer in the fall and played basketball in the winter. When basketball was over, he was right back to soccer. Younger players can look at that and go, I want to be like him. They could see how much he works in the offseason and I hope that carries over to the players under him.”
East Carter teammate and forward Logan Cales joins Miller on the All-Area team. The senior tallied 20 goals and established a formidable Raiders front line.
“We have played together for a long time,” Miller said of Cales. “I always enjoyed playing with him. You know if I had an off game, he would pick it up for me and vice versa. It’s always nice having a great player like him beside me.”
Calyx Holmes, Ben Acuff and SJ Lycans represented the region champions on the team. Freeman said Holmes was the Tomcats’ rock in the middle and an offensive spark with the team needed it. The senior led the balanced scoring attack with 10 goals.
“He’s been the guy that whenever we weren’t possessing the ball very well, he was able to go out and create some chances for us and put the ball in the back of the net,” Freeman said. “He’s a great athlete and really fun to coach. I’m proud of him this year.”
Acuff provided a shining example for his teammates with his will and toughness on the pitch.
“Ben was a great kid,” Freeman said. “He worked hard day in and day out. He never missed anything. He was there every single day and worked his tail off. He bought into what we wanted. Ben was one of the biggest reasons why we got to where we were this season.”
Lycans was part of a stingy Ashland defense that only gave up one goal in three matches during the region tournament. Lycans and Holmes also kicked on the state championship football team.
“SJ did a great job in the back that goes unrecognized,” Freeman said. “He doesn’t get the stats or anything to show for the work that he put in. He is an anchor back there.”
Rowan County and Menifee County were each represented with three players on the All-Area team.
Senior Dilan Maxey led the Vikings with nine goals and five assists during the team’s 7-2 campaign. He is joined by Chase Alderman (six goals) and Luke Hart.
The Wildcats had six matches canceled this year due to COVID-19 but still found a way to punch their ticket to the region tournament for the first time since 2009.
Jayden Cohelia recorded a 23-goal season. Dylan Adams added six goals and dished out 11 assists. Keeper John-Tyler Perkins posted 96 saves in front of the net.
Boyd County and Lawrence County had two players each on the squad. JB Walter had 14 goals as the Lions won eight of their first nine games. The defense posted nine shutouts and gave up just four goals all season.
Rylan Keelin produced a consistent year with six goals and six assists.
Luke Johnson accumulated 37 goals for the Bulldogs this season. Blake Maynard was Lawrence County’s main distributor with 21 assists. He also added 16 goals.
Rounding out the team were Fleming County’s Alain Lopez (five goals), Morgan County’s Jordan Phipps (seven goals) and Russell’s Nathan Totten (six goals).
Members of the All-Area team were determined by coaches’ vote.
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2020 The Daily Independent All-Area Boys Soccer Team
Ben Acuff (Ashland)
Dylan Adams (Menifee County)
Chase Alderman (Rowan County)
Logan Cales (East Carter)
Jayden Cohelia (Menifee County)
Luke Hart (Rowan County)
Calyx Holmes (Ashland)
Luke Johnson (Lawrence County)
Rylan Keelin (Boyd County)
SJ Lycans (Ashland)
Dilan Maxey (Rowan County)
Blake Maynard (Lawrence County)
Alain Lopez (Fleming County)
Ethan Miller (East Carter)
John-Tyler Perkins (Menifee County)
Jordan Phipps (Morgan County)
Nathan Totten (Russell)
JB Walter (Boyd County)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ethan Miller (East Carter)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Preston Freeman (Ashland)
Honorable mention: Trenton Adkins (Lawrence County), Drew Clark (Ashland), Trace Claxon (Greenup County), Trevor Cline (East Carter), Andres Duque (Rowan County), Noble Eleazu (Ashland), Matt Jimison (Ashland), Aiden Leuenberger (Rowan County), Kyle McKinney (Fleming County), Tanner Lewis (West Carter), Dylan Midkiff (Rowan County), Parker Miller (Ashland), Austin Peck (Menifee County), Gage Potter (Greenup County), Hayden Salyers (Boyd County), Hunter Sammons (West Carter), Jack Samuel (Boyd County), Aaron Smart (Rowan County), JB Terrill (Boyd County), Treven Tussey (East Carter), Carson Webb (Boyd County), Amos Witter (East Carter), Garrett Wolfe (West Carter).