The history between the Marshall County Marshals and the McCracken County Mustangs dates back to 2013, two teams turning into a rivalry in what seemed to be overnight. And on Wednesday night, that rivalry and history came to a head in the First Region Championship game.
Marshall County went in looking to reclaim their regional throne that the Mustangs took away in 2020, while McCracken County looked to protect their title in hopes of going back-to-back and make history for their youthful soccer program.
And like every great sports film, the night ended with heroics and tears as McCracken County earned the win after the nerve-wracking shootout brought spectators to their feet, winning 2-1 per KHSAA and snagging three penalty kicks in the shootout.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” McCracken County head coach Michael Wiersema told The Sun. “Donnie Heath and Tim Masthay taught me to play this system a couple of weeks ago and tried it against some good out of state teams, and we pulled it out tonight, and they didn’t know how to attack it. So all credit goes to Donnie Heath, Tim Masthay, and Edwin Ortez.”
The night kicked off with both teams attempting to dominate on the field. Both considered titans in the region neither were giving in as the first half ticked away. And going into the half, the score remained 0-0.
With less than 20 minutes left to play, it was still anyone’s game between the Marshals and Mustangs. However, at the 18-minute mark, McCracken County senior Ethan Roberts dashed down the field in control of the ball, scoring the first goal of the night to give his team a 1-0 lead.
“You know all credit goes to the guys,” Roberts said. “We fought for the first two halves and did incredibly well. I think we controlled most of the first half and controlled most of the second. I was the lucky one to put it in the back of the net, but it was an all-around team effort.”
Roberts’ goal stood until the seven-minute mark when Marshall County’s Collin Riley scored, tying it 1-1 as the Marshals fan section roared behind Marquette’s goalpost.
“I want to thank these boys,” Roberts said. “They wanted to keep us going for the rest of the seniors and me, so all credit goes to them. I was just the lucky one that put it in.”
As the final whistle blew into the night, the score remained 1-1, sending the championship into two five-minute overtimes. Unfortunately for both teams, neither were able to score, pushing it to a shootout.
“(The win) means a lot because no one expected us to win at the beginning of the season,” Grayson Parish said. “We were off everyone’s radar since we lost a lot of seniors last year, and we came back (tonight) and got the win.”
McCracken’s Josh Kuntz took the first penalty kick and sailed the ball past Marshall County’s Steven Claborn with the game in anyone’s hands. However, Marshall County returned the favor with a successful PK, making it 1-1.
Luke Medley made it 2-1 before Marshall tied it back at 2-2 on penalty kicks. However, it stood at 2-2 after the third and fourth rounds of PKs with a save by Parish, who collected four saves in the win.
As Roberts walked up to shoot his penalty kick, the roars of Mustang Nation echoed throughout the stadium. With the possibility of a win riding on his back, Roberts made a successful penalty kick to make it 3-2. His successful shot left it up to the Marshals to tie or finish as runner-up in the region. As Marshall County missed the last PK, the Mustangs celebrated the win and the regional title.
2021 All-Region TeamsFirst Team
Vernado Thomas, Mayfield
Trey Boggess, Murray
William Lynch, Marshall County
Chase Renick, Murray
Josh Kuntz, McCracken County
Collin Riley, Marshall County
Daniel Willett, St. Mary
Hayden Stewart, McCracken County
Logan Davis, Marshall County
Eric Hicks, Marshall County
Grayson Parish, McCracken County
Ethan Carson, Calloway
Cade Fleming, St. Mary
Bo Stom, Calloway
John Wood, Marshall County
Edward O’Neal, St. Mary
Nathan King, McCracken County
Dalton Puckett, Calloway
Jack Roof, St. Mary
Nehemiah Ivey, McCracken County
Josh Eaton, Murray
Antonio Perez, Mayfield
Eddie Romero, Graves County
Jude Bazzell, Calloway
Jack Housman, McCracken County
Colin Shadowen, Marshall County
Conner Blalock, Murray
Player of the Year
William Lynch, Marshall County
Coach of the Year
Bryan Blevins, Marshall County