Jasper falls to Southport in regionals, 3-0October 20, 2019
BY JONATHAN SAXON
SEYMOUR — Southport defeated Jasper 3-0 in the Class 3A regional semifinal on Saturday, but it certainly did not play out like a typical three-goal game. There was no quick burst of scoring, or a prolonged scoring campaign where one team just dominated the other, at least not for the first 70 minutes. However, the chances the Cardinals created in the final 10 minutes proved to be the difference they needed to advance past the Wildcats.
Wildcats coach Kyle Kendall thought his boys did the best they could to cope with the Cardinals’ superior ball skills. He knew it would be tough getting shots on goal given how adept Southport was when it came to ball control, but Jasper still managed to get a few windows — the Wildcats just couldn’t put anything through them.
“We did what we do,” he said. “There have been a couple of teams that out-possessed us the way they did today, and we found ways to stay in those games. Floyd Central did that to us earlier in the year. We were able to withstand the attack, and we did against Castle earlier in the tournament. We held them, unfortunately, the couple of chances we got just didn’t go in.”
The shots were few and far between for both teams in the first half. There was the occasional near-miss, but most the first half looked resembled a game of keep away. The Cardinals (16-5) dominated most of the possession game, as they used their superior speed and foot dexterity to move the ball around the field at will. However, they did run into trouble whenever they tried to press into the box, as the Wildcats used their size advantage to crowd the Cards and shut the door on their shots to the net. Jasper didn’t have a lot of luck moving up the field, but it was able to stand stout as both teams finished the first half in a scoreless stalemate.
The same was true of the second half, at least until the final 10 minutes. Southport, after knocking on the door for most of the game, was finally able to penetrate Jasper’s defenses, as senior forward Thawng Nang weaved through the Wildcats’ line to put in the first Cardinal goal. A few minutes later, sophomore forward Albert Thang shot a bullet from the top of the box that slipped just inside of the top-right corner for a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats (11-5-4) weren’t able to find an answer during the final few minutes, and senior forward Dawt Thang sealed the game in the closing seconds with the Cardinals’ third goal.
“We came out and gave it our all as a whole team,” senior midfielder Jackson Kabrick said. “We played our game; they just got more goals than us. Our coach always says we don’t know when the big play is going to happen, and, unfortunately, the big play happened. They got the momentum, and we weren’t able to take it back. We were just happy to give our all and have fun playing as a team.”
Despite the bitter end to the season, the Wildcats still have plenty to celebrate. They not only won their sixth sectional title, but they also had the pleasure of knocking off the Castle Knights, the defending sectional champions and Jasper’s perennial postseason spectre in recent memory, in the process.
“It’s great to be in the history books with those other teams,” Kabrick said. “It’s just great to be a part of it.”
“We don’t play an easy schedule on purpose,” added Kendall, who was most impressed with how the Wildcats grew as a team from their setbacks and came back stronger from their losses over the course of the season. “We learned from our mistakes this year. Every one of those games that didn’t become a win, we walked away with a lesson to learn. They did the work on the practice field.”
Kendall hopes the boys coming back out for the team next season learned that it takes a total team effort to put together a sectional-winning season. He thinks the seniors did a good job of leading by example and fulfilling their roles on the team to the best of their ability, whether they were a starter or a role player coming off the bench. A handful of players may score during a game, but it takes everyone putting in the work during practices and games to create a team that can perform and achieve at the highest possible level.
“The seniors have laid a heck of a groundwork,” Kendall said. “Not just leadership, but going about their business the right way. It’s not just guys at the top of the list, but guys coming off the bench or being in a backup role. To me, that’s the biggest thing that any of these guys can come away with — know that when you’ve got eight to 10 guys in a class, that it’s all eight to 10 of them, not just the top two or three getting their name in the paper. It’s everybody contributing.”
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