FLATWOODS East Carter, one of the top boys soccer programs of the last decade in the 16th Region, was at a bit of a crossroads on Monday night.

The Raiders traveled to Russell sitting 2-3-1, their slowest start in four years, to meet the 7-2 Red Devils, off to their best start in six years.

And East Carter lost center back Foster Miller to injury against the Lions and another one, Ammos Witter, late in the first half Monday.

"I told the boys after the Boyd County game (a 3-1 Raiders loss on Thursday) that championship teams, good teams, they just find a way, even on their off nights," Huddle said. "There was no doubt tonight was a little bit of an off night to start. ... Our backs were against the wall, and I couldn't be more proud of the grit that we showed tonight and really pushed through."

The Raiders won, 3-1, behind two goals from Ashton Tiller -- one to open the scoring in the 21st minute, and another to conclude the tallies with a penalty kick in the 77th.

Austin Fruth added a goal in the 51st minute for the Raiders, firing a shot from the right flank that curved behind Russell's goalie and inside the near post.

The Red Devils got that one back 18 minutes later, when Nathan Totten finished off what Russell assistant coach Phillip Lodwick comically tabbed a "butt assist" from his son, Jacob Lodwick.

"We had a play inside the goal, the ball went back out and the ball got played into Jacob Lodwick's rear end, which was a butt assist, apparently," Phillip Lodwick deadpanned, "and Totten tapped it to the corner, which is what we've been working on a lot."

Russell continued its push to find an equalizer, which included a missed opportunity alone in the box in the 75th minute. But two minutes later, the Raiders drew a foul in the box, and Tiller converted from the spot, driving the ball into the right side of the net.

Huddle is hopeful the Raiders' result on the road will help them find the rhythm that has eluded them early in the season.

"I told them I thought they deserved a better result than they had against Boyd County," Huddle said. "No matter how you feel, if you lose, you lose. There are no moral victories, and tonight, getting the victory, I don't think there is any doubt this can spark us and really get us going."

Concurred Tiller: "This is a huge win for us. We definitely needed a big win, and I'm hoping it pushes us forward through the season."

Tiller got a break to get the Raiders on the board when a Russell defender missed on a clearance attempt. Tiller kept going, corralled the ball and won a one-on-one with the Red Devils' keeper.

"He kinda just came out and it went right through him," Tiller said, "and just gotta tap the shot in."

That settled everyone down, Huddle said.

"Both teams were pretty jacked up there, wanting to get a signature win," Huddle said, "and so when the first goal went in, I thought both teams calmed down.

"It was a pretty good game, back and forth. Russell had their chances, and our defense and Breck did a great job tonight."

He meant Breck Sargent, East Carter's first-year goalie. He had a handful of meaningful stops, none more so than a dramatic save less than a minute after Fruth put the Raiders up 2-0.

"I've been hard on him this year," Huddle said of Sargent. "There's no secret about it, anybody that comes to the games that can hear me knows I've been hard on him, and tonight, he was massive.

"He made save after save, he was communicating, he was a leader back there, and if I can get that every night, I'm gonna be pretty proud of him."

Sargent's night also included a stuff of Russell's Preston Guza making a run in the 12th minute and diving to cut out the Red Devils' Nathan Sabotchick's savvily headed cross across the goal mouth with a teammate waiting back post in the 49th. And Sargent deflected Jeison Benitez Ramires's laser over the crossbar in the 57th.

Russell saw positives despite the setback.

"I'd say the boys did really well at developing their game, playing the ball the best that they could," Lodwick said. "They played their hearts out. Sometimes you get the calls your way, sometimes you don't, and I'm really proud of them for keeping their composure and playing like gentlemen."

Lodwick filled in as skipper for Randy Vanover, who was in quarantine. Lodwick said he felt like things went smoothly after a pregame briefing with Vanover, and that Vanover FaceTimed in to address the Red Devils before the game, at halftime and postgame.

(606) 326-2658 |

zklemme@dailyindependent.com

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