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Boys’ Soccer – State Champs!

‘It’s an amazing feeling.’ Once in a lifetime play nets a championship

Lexington Herald Leader /

By Jared Peck

November 02, 2019

Herald Leader / photo slideshow - 

 In a play he says he’s never tried and maybe never even thought about, Henry Clay’s Cayden Rose launched a curling corner kick over a leaping Daviess County keeper and clean into the net to give the Blue Devils the lead and eventually the win in Saturday’s Kentucky High School Athletic Association Boys’ State Soccer Championship Saturday at Bryan Station.

“It’s a sweet end,” Rose, a senior, said of his unintended shot that put the Blue Devils up 1-0 with just over 27 minutes left in the game. “To be able to score and win the game in the last game, and probably the last soccer game I’ll ever play. It’s an amazing feeling.”

What was he trying to do?

“Put it back post. It went back post,” he said, smiling.

Henry Clay tacked on another goal by Tahj Jairam in the closing minutes helping his team seal it, 2-0, and secure the program’s third state title and first since 2010.

It’s the first for Coach Jason Behler, who was an assistant when Henry Clay made it’s last finals appearance in 2015. He was as shocked as anyone when Rose knocked it in.

 “I’ve never seen him play that ball or try that. He sends a very consistent ball. That’s why he’s been taking our corners for the last couple of weeks,” Behler said. “I did not tell him to do that. He took that on himself. And I’m sure glad that he did.”

Henry Clay came out the aggressor in the first half, generating more chances and more corners with its relentless, pressing style. But Daviess County frustrated the Blue Devils attempts to reach their attacking players and when Henry Clay did break through, its shots missed the mark.

“That’s a really difficult defense to break down,” Behler said. “… They played deep sweeper and don’t let anything in behind. We had all sorts of numbers inside the box. We had opportunities in the first half we missed. When you have those and you go in 0-0 at halftime, you feel like you should be winning, and a lot of guys would fold.”

Daviess County Coach Doug Sandifer said he knew his Panthers would have to defend much of the night and his players stuck to their game plan.

“Our goal was to be within a goal within the last 15 minutes and we were,” Sandifer said. “They did exactly what I what I asked them to do. The few chances we got, I thought their keeper handled them brilliantly. He was fantastic. He didn’t bobble a ball.”

Perhaps Daviess County’s best chance to equalize came on a free kick from Nate Dailey with just under four minutes left. He struck a right-footed shot on goal from more than 30 yards out that Henry Clay keeper Ethan Anderson got both hands on above the crossbar and held onto while also falling on his backside.

“I was super close to the line,” admitted Anderson, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “I jumped so high I didn’t know how I was coming down. I’m glad I stuck on that line and held that ball.”

For Henry Clay’s seniors the championship is the culmination of a two-year campaign that began last year when they entered the playoffs with a losing record and then went on a tear all the way to the state semifinals last year. That core group led a team that went 24-1-3 this season.

“This team are mental giants,” Behler said. “Adversity has not gotten to them one time. They went through everything last season — seven starters out at one point last season — they just kept grinding and grinding and all the dividends of that have paid this season. … I can’t be more proud of them.”