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Fans in attendance for Saturday’s 5th Annual Dry Ridge Toyota Cup got their money’s worth and then some with the home-town Braves taking first and the Lady Braves second, both in dramatic fashion.
Grant County won the boys’ championship with a 1-0 shootout victory over Conner, while the Lady Braves took second in the girls’ brackets with a3-2 thriller over visiting Gallatin County.
On the boys’ side, Joel Hornsby, Collin Cain, Ethan Howe and True Williams all scored goals for Grant County in the shootout, and goalkeeper Jordan Kearns did his part in the net to preserve the win for the Braves.
Grant County Coach Garrett Griffith, who is in his first year with the boy’s program, said he could not be more proud of his team after the determination it showed in the win over Conner, one of the best teams in this part of the state.
“I could not be happier for the guys. They really played well and they deserve this win,” said Griffith. “It was a total team effort and I am super proud to be their coach.”
Key to the Braves’ championship was superb defense all over the field.
“Defensively, hands down it was the best game we have played all season,” said the Grant County coach. “The guys are really starting to come into their own defensively and are playing well together.”
Griffith, who has preached improvement all season long, said he continues to see it even as the season is winding down.
“To compete the way we did with a team like Conner, one of the better teams and programs in Northern Kentucky, it speaks volumes for how far the boys have come,” he said.
Grant County made its way to the championship game of the boys’ brackets with an impressive 7-0 win over Gallatin County in opening-round action.
In that game, six different players scored goals for the Braves and five added assists while Jordan Kearns protected the shutout win with stellar play in the net.
Nathan Yeager led the Braves’ offense with two goals and two assists. Jose Aguazul, Austin Beach, Jordan Kearns, Robby Nelson and True Williams also added goals.
Christian McGee also chipped in two assists for Grant County, one on a corner kick, to earn praise from his coach.
“Christian McGee is getting better all the time,” said Griffith. “It’s a work in progress with Christian because he is a younger player. But he is getting his confidence up and working on his touches.”
Cole Barnes, Joel Hornsby and Ben Willoughby followed with one assist each for the Braves in the win.
Following second place Conner in the boys’ tournament was Gallatin County in third place and Villa Madonna, the defending Toyota Cup champion, in fourth.
Jordan Kearns, Cole Barnes, Matthew Barnett and Nathan Yeager were all named to the Toyota Cup All Tournament Team for their efforts.
Not to be out-done, the Grant County Lady Braves provided some fireworks of their own in the girls’ brackets with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Gallatin County.
The Lady Braves, who won the Toyota Cup championship a year ago, were knocked out of title contention this year in a 3-0 loss to Spencer County, one of the top teams in the 8th Region as well as the state with 12 wins and 76 goals.
Grant County coach Ron Maddox, whose team came into the tournament on a three-game win streak, found few faults and plenty of positives from his Lady Braves, even in the loss to Spencer County.
“The girls always play hard and give a good effort,” he said.