BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND An unyielding defense and another heavy dose of Sam Ewing catapulted Russell to the 63rd District soccer championship Wednesday night.
The Red Devils knocked off top-seeded Boyd County 4-0 at Ashland Soccer Complex, becoming the first Kentucky team to shut out the Lions this season.
“We just locked them down,” Russell defender Hunter Perry said. “We contained their top guys, (Peyton) Henderson and (Ty) Roberts.”
Russell’s flat back four alignment — with Gabe Floyd joining seniors Perry, Daniel Davidson and Brennen Perry on the back row — effectively closed the gate. Behind them, active sophomore goalkeeper Joe Ewing threw up a stop sign as the Red Devils won their second district title in three years.
The Red Devils (7-8-1) are playing their best soccer at just the right time. Russell has won four in a row after coming out of a five-game slide.
“The potential has been there from the beginning,” coach Marty Torgrimson said. “The mental attitude had been lacking. We’re finally putting it together.”
The secret to Russell’s late-season success on the back line?
“It’s just a bond we have,” Perry said.
It didn’t start out that way this season, according to Davidson.
“We had our differences,” he said. “It took some time (to come together).”
The Red Devils entered the district final with plenty of incentive.
“Boyd County beat us both times we played this season,” Perry said. “To get this win, it feels great.”
The Red Devils led 10 at halftime and put the game away down the stretch.
“Russell showed up tonight ready to win a championship,” Boyd County coach Logan Price said. “Marty had his guys coached up and ready to go. They played extremely hard and deserved it.”
If the tournament presented a Most Valuable Player award, it would have gone — hands down — to Joe Ewing’s older brother. Sam scored two goals Wednesday and set up both of the others for the Red Devils.
Including Russell’s 52 first-round win Monday, the senior forward scored or assisted all nine goals by his team. He deposited four shots into the net against Ashland and now has 23 goals on the season.
“Sam’s been a great asset,” Torgrimson said. “He’s going to be missed, that’s for sure.”
Russell opponents won’t be as sad to see Ewing graduate.
“It seems like Sam’s been around too long,” said Price, only halfjokingly. “He’s a really good player. He goes so hard and knows exactly what to do with the ball at his feet.” Ewing set up the first goal with a cross to Nolan Sabotchick in the 23rd minute.
Boyd County, playing without starting goalkeeper Matthew Ferguson due to an injury, turned up its intensity in the second half. But the Lions couldn’t find a way past Boyd County’s defense to get the ball in the net.
“I thought our effort was better in the second half,” Price said. “I think we came out a little rusty after not playing for eight days. Whatever the reason, Russell served us a big dish of humble pie.”
The Lions lost for only the fourth time in 20 matches this season.
Sam Ewing fired in a direct kick from 25 yards out to make it 2-0 midway through the second half. Karim Abul- Khoudoud scored off another Ewing cross, then Ewing knocked in a loose ball with 4:34 remaining.
Both teams advance to the 16th Region Tournament next week at East Carter.