By Mitch Howard For the Times-Tribune
NORTH LAUREL — Whitley County entered Tuesday’s 49th District Tournament with more wins than North Laurel. The Colonels also won an earlier meeting 4-3 in overtime. But that may have been a different North Laurel team.
“They showed everyone that was here watching what they are capable of,” North Laurel coach Mark Acampa said. “It’s what we’ve been saying from the beginning. When they play together as a team the talent is there.”
The Jaguars jumped ahead of Whitley County 6-0 and then coasted to a 6-2 win. It was one of the better examples of passing and teamwork Acampa had seen this season.
“If you look at the way they moved the ball, but there were other games they did that same type of thing. The last time we played Whitley they came out with the same kind of passion and zeal,” Acampa said.
The Colonels were the first to line up a good shot with keeper Nick Herrmann making a diving save. It would be just a moment after that shot that Keaton Kennedy navigated down the field for a goal and a 1-0 lead.
With 30:39 in the half, Evan De la Pena made it a 2-0 game with a long kick from beyond the top of the box.
The Jaguars had all the momentum and added more with a goal by Josh Carter at 23:40. Carter scored on a perfect pass from Kennedy. Kennedy would score his second goal three minutes later for a 4-0 lead at the half.
The Jaguars started early in the second half with Carter scoring his second goal on a header. Hunter Riley’s corner kick would assist the Carter goal. With 30:33 remaining, Adam Napier chipped a shot just over the keeper to make it 6-0.
With the game apparently well in hand, Acampa started to substitute freely.
“At a certain point it becomes more important to get some of the kids that have been with us throughout the year a chance to get into a district game rather than keeping it a clean sheet,” Acampa said.
With 11:01 remaining, the Colonels broke the shutout on a direct kick from Hunter Keltner. The kick was awarded due to a push in the box. Whitley County added a second goal when the Jaguars defense didn’t clear a shot well enough. Max Murry was there for a follow kick.
Acampa didn’t put the starters back in after the Whitley County goals. The team’s leading scorer, Kennedy, especially would not return after getting a yellow card in what had been a very physical contest.
“I was tempted to put him back in a couple of times. It hurt me because he has done so much for this team to put us in the position to win,” Acampa said.
The Jaguars will face Corbin in the finals. The Redhounds were a 4-3 winner over South Laurel Monday.
Corbin won the earlier meeting this season 2-0. That is the same score North Laurel defeated Corbin in the finals of last year’s district tournament. Corbin would avenge that loss with a 1-0 win in the 13th Region finals on penalty kicks.
“Obviously there is a heated rivalry there. If the North Laurel team that played tonight comes out to play tomorrow, then I think we stand a really good chance,” Acampa said.