FLATWOODS Blake Mullen thought fast and acted faster.

After illegal touching was called on Russell’s goalie in his own box, resulting in an indirect free kick in the 26th minute of Rowan County’s game at Russell-McDowell Intermediate on Thursday night, the Vikings sophomore didn’t hesitate.

As the Red Devils were trying to figure out the call, Mullen set up the ball and tapped it laterally to Aaron Smart, who booted it into the net.

“Honestly, I don’t think I necessarily agree with the call, but you take what you can get, you know?” Mullen asked. “So I heard ‘indirect’ and I saw a wide-open box, so I just went up, grabbed it, and I didn’t know if I needed to go closer to goal or back it up a little bit, but I kinda glanced up at the ref while I was lined up with the ball, and I saw one of my teammates run in, so we just played a little one-two into the goal.”

That was the second of the Vikings’ three goals in a nine-minute span — all that were scored in the game.

“It’s awesome to see, getting on an offensive attack like that, where it’s goal after goal,” Rowan County coach Max Hammond III said. “I wish it would’ve kept going a little bit more and got another three or four goals in there, because for the shot opportunities that we took, we took some really good ones, just a little bit off-frame.”

Mullen scored about a minute after his assist to Smart. That completed the onslaught that began when Smart found Dilan Maxey, who won a one-on-one with Russell’s keeper in the 19th minute.

Hammond was happier with Rowan County’s second game than its first, a 3-2 win over Menifee County on Wednesday, but credited the Wildcats’ improvement in that game, as well as the Vikings’ offensive effort in the first half Thursday.

Russell (0-1) coach Randy Vanover declined comment on the call that set up Rowan County’s second goal, but liked his team’s response in the second half to the three-goal hole.

“I thought we made a good adjustment at halftime, and the second half we played a lot better,” Vanover said. “We just really got beat in the midfield there. First game, you gotta learn stuff and make adjustments. I liked what I saw in the second half. We’ve gotta build from that.”

In addition to the Red Devils’ Senior Night, Thursday’s game was their season opener and their first outing in 11 months and three days.

“We’re gonna come out, battle, try to get better,” Vanover said. “These guys have played hard all summer. Probably a lot of people didn’t think we could play like we did in the second half. We’ll keep improving.”

Vanover credited Nathan Sabotchick’s energy in the midfield in the second half as a difference-maker in the game.

Russell created two scoring chances in the second half, on long runs by Sabotchick and Nathan Totten. Sabotchick’s set up a corner kick, which Rowan County (2-0) keeper Chase Alderman put away without incident. Alderman also stopped Totten before he could shoot.

“Chase is an awesome goalie, and awesome athlete,” Hammond said. “Awesome with his hands.”

Rowan County won its seventh consecutive game in the series. Russell last beat the Vikings on Sept. 1, 2015.

(606) 326-2658 |

zklemme@dailyindependent.com

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