By Dan Wright
UNION, Ky. – Ryle came within seconds of becoming only the second team this season to shut out Boone County in the 33rd District Championship Game.
Instead, the Raiders will have to settle for their sixth district championship in the last seven years, defeating the Rebels, 2-1, in rainy, blustery conditions Saturday afternoon at Ryle.
That was just fine with Nathan Roe, a sophomore defender who anchored Ryle’s stifling defense.
“Feels good,” Roe said, “but we still want to move on and make it to state.”
Ryle put itself in a good position to make another deep run in the post-season by limiting a Boone County team that entered the game averaging 3.8 goals a game to just nine shots on goal.
“It’s tough, because they’ve got a lot of speed and they’ve got a lot of guys who can put the ball in the net,” said Ryle head coach Stephen Collins. “We just talked about playing smarter. Controlling the center of the field and making them take shots from out of their comfort zone. That’s kind of what we’ve been stressing all week.”
Ryle freshman goalkeeper Will Bedel needed to make just five saves, and was never seriously threatened until senior midfielder Evan O’Hara scored on a penalty kick seconds before the final whistle sounded.
By that time Ryle had already found the back of the net twice in the second half to take control after a scoreless first half.
Senior striker Jose Alberto Aguirre broke the scoreless duel with 30:22 remaining in the game by firing a shot from just outside the right side of the 18-yard box. A Boone County defender attempted to head the ball away, but instead redirected it just enough to fall out of the reach of sophomore goalkeeper Enrique Espinoza and into the net.
“Alberto’s our leading scorer,” said Collins,” but the nice thing about this team this year is we have six of seven guys who can put the ball in the net.”
Sophomore Kareem El-Gusain proved that point by scoring Ryle’s second goal about seven minutes later, just moments after entering as a substitute for Aguirre.
“He fills the need. He can play that same spot that Alberto plays with that same type of intensity,” Collins said of El-Gusain, who cleaned up a loose ball following senior midfielder Matt Pederson’s shot attempt. “He’s got good speed and can take the ball into the corner and help us possess it. So that’s kind of why he was in there.”
The Raiders physical defense did enough the rest of the way to make the two goal lead stand up. It also put Ryle on top of the district after losing last year’s district championship game to the Rebels, 3-2, in penalty kicks.
The Rebels were also responsible for one of only two losses by the Raiders since the start of September this year, a 4-3 win at Boone County on Sept. 23.
The only way the teams will face off again this year is if both can make it to the finals of the 9th Region tournament which begins Tuesday at the sites of the district winners and before continuing with the semifinals at Ryle on Thursday.
“It’s nice because now we’ve played on our home field through districts and we’ll get to play on our home field as long as we’re fortunate enough to keep winning,” said Collins. “We’ll play here Tuesday and if we can pull off another win then we get another game at home on Thursday. It’s nice for these kids who have worked hard all year to be able to keep going on their home field.”
HALFTIME: 0-0. GOALS: R—own goal, El-Gusain. B— O’Hara. RECORDS: Ryle 15-5-2, Boone County 16-6-1.
All-Tournament Team: Jorge Aguilera (Conner), Chris O’Brien (Cooper), Evan O’Hara (Boone County), Emmanuel Boateng (Boone County), Sulieman Kayed (Ryle), Alex Weber (Ryle). MVP- Nathan Roe (Ryle).