HARRODSBURG — West Jessamine had beaten Lincoln County 6-3 in the regular season, but the Patriots clearly weren’t intimidated by the Colts’ status as one of the top teams in the region when the two teams tangled in a rematch Wednesday night.
The Patriots’ fearlessness on the field would not lead to victory, however, as West Jessamine eliminated Lincoln 3-2 in the semifinal round of the boys 12th Region Tournament at King Middle School.
After an intense back-and-forth battle, Lincoln gave up the game-winning goal to West Jessamine’s Josh Bowman with 5 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
“It was a fight, and I think we played tremendous,” Lincoln coach Chaz Garcia said. “I don’t think a single player didn’t leave everything on the field. I don’t think a single player is going to go home tonight and say, ‘You know what, I could have done more.’ We played well, but you just can’t win them all.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Garcia was beaming with pride after the game as he talked about his team and how it has progressed since its first regional appearance two seasons ago.
“Gosh, I’m so proud of them because they are contenders,” he said. “We made it to region two years ago and Danville just smashed us. Then last year, we make it to the region again and Mercer County mercy-ruled us. Tonight we came out and played West Jessamine 3-2. In my eyes I can’t ask for anything more, other than a win. My goodness, we had it. We were in it for a win.”
Lincoln (12-7-0) never trailed until Bowman’s late goal, but the Patriots could not get an upper hand on West Jessamine as the two teams traded goals.
The trading began after the Patriots’ Austin Grigsby scored the game’s first goal in the 11th minute. The Patriots took a corner kick, then passed the ball to the inside, and it rolled right to Grigsby who put the shot in past West Jessamine goalkeeper Wesley Holifield. Less than five minutes later, Logan Dailey answered for West Jessamine, scoring on a breakaway to even the game at 1-all.
With 9:49 to play in the first half, West Jessamine (14-10-1) had the opportunity to break the tie on a penalty kick after Lincoln was called for a trip in the goal box, but Bowman’s strike was stopped by Lincoln goalkeeper Ian Blevins.
Lincoln went back in front 90 seconds into the second half off a Carter Dunn score. Dunn brought the ball up on a breakaway, played it right in front of Holifield, then fired a shot into the right side of the net, giving the Patriots a 2-1 lead.
But again, West Jessamine would have an answer. Lincoln was called for its second tripping penalty just 3 minutes later, and this time the Colts would not be denied. Logan Dailey punched the penalty shot into the back right corner of goal to force a 2-2 tie.
The penalty against the Patriots drew a fierce rebuttal from disgruntled Lincoln fans, who were upset with the night’s officiating. But Garcia simply said, “It happens.”
“I wouldn’t say the officiating was bad. They did a good job,” he said. “The last thing I ever want to blame a loss on is the officiating. I don’t think we got some calls we should have gotten, and they got away with some. It happens.”
There was no penalty on the game’s final goal. As Lincoln fans screamed “Offsides!” from the bleachers, Bowman dribbled the ball up on a breakaway, then fired high left just out of Blevins’ reach for the game-winner.
“Nobody wants to lose, and we’re disappointed. But they fought and they fought hard, and I’m proud of them,” Garcia said. “This was a better game, definitely, than (preseason). We played much better and they weren’t able to run all over us. It’s just unfortunate some things didn’t click.”
Less than 15 minutes after the final horn sounded on Lincoln’s 2012 season, Garcia had already started thinking ahead to 2013.
“Next year I think we’re going to come back stronger. We’re really going to try to hit the boys hard in the offseason and try to get ready to come back out here and hopefully get a district title and contend in the region again.”