It was a program-defining year for East Carter soccer and was 36 seconds from giving the Raiders a shot at bringing home only the second state championship in any sport in school history.
2019 was nothing less than remarkable for the Raiders, finishing 19-4-1 before falling to Daviess County 3-2 in double overtime in the state semifinals. It was the most wins in program history and the closest any team has come to bringing home a state title to Grayson since East Carter’s baseball team did so in 1984.
“This season was special,” East Carter coach Chris Huddle said. “For me, it was knowing what we expected last season and the disappointment with how it ended last year. Seeing these guys bounce back and grow not only as players but as young men, I think we took a big step as a program getting where we did and proving we can play at that level.”
Huddle’s squad placed five members on this year’s The Daily Independent All-Area team — selected by northeastern Kentucky coaches — including Ethan Miller grabbing Player of the Year honors.
Miller led the region in scoring while finishing fourth in the state in goals scored (42) and total points (95). Miller provided both Raiders goals in the loss to Daviess County in the state semis.
“It is very special for me to represent our school and our region,” Miller said. “But I’m also very proud of the boys and all that we have accomplished this year. Our coaches put me and the team in a good position to succeed.”
Miller said failing to reach the state final was frustrating but should not overshadow the Raiders’ accomplishments.
“At first it was disappointing because we all wanted to go to the final, but looking back, we have no reason to hang our heads,” Miller said. “It would’ve been great to compete for a state championship.”
Miller added: “I think this season was a season that me, my teammates, coaches and fans will remember for a long time. It was very special, going through the ups and downs and meeting and exceeding our goals.”
Huddle said every coach in the state would take an Ethan Miller on their squad.
“He is a special player. His ability to stay calm on the ball and his soccer IQ is outstanding,” Huddle said. “His movement off the ball is great, and he has the confidence to score the ball anytime he has it.”
Huddle said the biggest challenge for the Raiders in the semifinals was just proving to themselves they belonged.
“We were excited to be in the state semifinals; then you start seeing Daviess County’s stats and how they have been tothe final game like four times in the last six years,” Huddle said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us, but these guys never really seemed nervous and when we scored that first goal that made it 2-1, it was no longer about proving we belong.
“We knew we could win the game, so when (Daviess County’s) third goal went in with 36 seconds left, it was just as devastating as any loss, and knowing you were that close to a state final made it that much worse.”
Huddle was named Coach of the Year, earning his third such award (2016, ‘17).
“It is an honor to be named Coach of the Year,” Huddle said. “It means a lot to me, but when you have great assistant coaches and great players, they can make you look pretty good, so I will share this honor with them.”
East Carter placed four members on the team with Miller. Logan Cales (16 goals, nine assists) aided Miller on the offensive attack, along with Garrett Halstead (11 goals, 14 assists) from the midfield position. Shawn Greenhill was one of two defenders voted onto the team, outside of the four goalies.
Trevor Cline paced the class of goalkeepers with 101 saves and only 23 goals allowed. He pitched nine shutouts, good for seventh-best in the state.
East Carter’s region championship foe, Rowan County, placed three on this year’s team. Dilan Maxey (16 goals, four assists), Chase Alderman (14 goals, six assists) and Lucas Hart (11 goals, three assists) paced the postseason surge by the Vikings before falling 4-3 to the Raiders in the title affair.
Boyd County earned three members to the squad. Ronnie Totten (13 goals, four assists) led the Lions in scoring. He’s joined by JB Walter (eight goals, two assists) and Rylan Keelin (five goals, four assists).
Russell and Lawrence County each placed two members on the team. The Red Devils were led by Max Cantrell (eight goals, seven assists) on the offensive attack, while Joe Ewing worked the net. Ewing had 132 saves while allowing 44 goals.
Tyler Maynard paced the Bulldogs’ offense with 22 goals and four assists. Luke Johnson added seven goals and a team-high 11 assists.
Six additional teams placed a single member on the squad, two working from the goalkeeper position.
West Carter’s Hunter Sammons finished sixth in the state in saves (319) while averaging 16.8 saves per contest. Menifee County’s John-Tyler Perkins rounded out the state top 25 with 188 saves.
Fleming County center back Jordan Dials (four goals, five assists), Bath County’s Alex Perez (14 goals, seven assists), Ashland’s Ben Acuff and Johnson Central’s Jake Headley (25 goals, 7 assists) rounded out the 2019 class.
2019 ALL-AREA BOYS SOCCER TEAM
Ben Acuff (Ashland)
Chase Alderman (Rowan County)
Logan Cales (East Carter)
Max Cantrell (Russell)
Trevor Cline (East Carter)
Jordan Dials (Fleming County)
Joe Ewing (Russell)
Shawn Greenhill (East Carter)
Garrett Halstead (East Carter)
Lucas Hart (Rowan County)
Jake Headley (Johnson Central)
Luke Johnson (Lawrence County)
Rylan Keelin (Boyd County)
Dilan Maxey (Rowan County)
Tyler Maynard (Lawrence County)
Ethan Miller (East Carter)
Alex Perez (Bath County)
John-Tyler Perkins (Menifee County)
Hunter Sammons (West Carter)
Ronnie Totten (Boyd County)
JB Walter (Boyd County)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ethan Miller (East Carter)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Chris Huddle (East Carter)
Honorable mention: Dylan Adams (Menifee County), Jayden Cohelia (Menifee County), Nathan Davis (Bath County), Gabe Floyd (Russell), Santiago Gutierrez (Ashland), Calyx Holmes (Ashland), Devon Hunt (Bath County), John Braden Kennard (Johnson Central), Gavin Padgett (Bath County), Jacob Patton (Bath County), Austin Peck (Menifee County), Carson Webb (Boyd County)