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Battle at Bourbon

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GCHS boys earn berth in regional championship

By Ryan Naus

As the crowd fell silent, Cory Kearns stood alone in the net. The only thing standing between a date in the regional championship and the Grant County Braves was a Bourbon County player. The thud of a foot striking the ball echoed across the field before a second thud caused the players and fans to scream. Cory Kearns had ended Bourbon County’s season.

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His teammates rushed him as the Grant County boys’ soccer team earned the right to vie for the region championship, defeating Bourbon County in penalty kicks, 3-1.

“It feels amazing,” Kearns said. “I was pumped and I was ready for it. I knew we had this.”

The Braves had played 110 minutes of soccer, but had ended regulation and overtime tied 0-0 with the Colonels before it came down to penalty kicks. Andrew Hemsath, Neil Koebcke and Preston Cahill each made their penalty shots, while Kearns blocked three shots.

“This feels really good,” coach Bill Simpkins said. “This is a nice reward for a good season and good play. We talked about being ready to play 110 minutes if it was necessary. Losing to Pendleton County in the district championship in the last minute prepared us for this.

Up next for the Braves is a rematch against Pendleton County, who Grant County has lost to twice this season. The Braves last played the Wildcats in the district championship, losing after 109 minutes of soccer. The Wildcats scored with a minute left in the second period of sudden death soccer. The two teams will meet at 7 p.m. on Oct. 22 at Bourbon County. Until then, the Braves will enjoy the victory they just earned.

“It feels great,” senior Andrew Hemsath said. “To go to the finals for regionals my senior year, I feel honored. I was thinking we should score before it came to penalty kicks. I didn’t want to go to a shootout, but I had confidence in my teammates and Cory.”

The Braves only had one previous shootout this season, where Grant County lost in the Forcht Bank Classic championship game to Frankfort. This time, however, Kearns knew what to expect in the pressure packed situation.

“Last shootout, I was stressed,” Kearns said. “I knew I needed to be relaxed to make the saves this time and it paid off.”

“Cory made some great saves throughout the game, especially in the second half and overtimes. He was without a doubt the defensive player of the game.”

Throughout the game, the Grant County defense held strong, despite giving up several close calls. As the game got longer and longer, Kearns knew that one goal and Grant County’s season could have been over, but no shot from the Colonels hit the net.

“It was getting closer and closer to the end,” Kearns said. “Every time someone touched the ball, I knew I had to do my job or it could change the game.”

Kearns played with a jammed thumb that he suffered early in the district championship, but the pain was a fleeting thought as he stopped offensive attack after offensive attack.

“It feels great,” he said. “No pain.”

Grant County is eager for another shot at the Wildcats.

“We’ve already played them twice,” Hemsath said. “We fix a few mistakes and we beat them. It’s cool that we’re playing again. It’s an advantage to us.”

“We’re not finished,” Simpkins said. “We set goals to win the district and win the region. We came mighty close to district, but we’ve still got one goal we can reach. They have two really nice players that gave us problems when we played before and we’re hoping our players will be better prepared for them.”

“I’m ready for Pendleton,” Kearns said.