The Western Hills Wolverines parlayed two goals by senior forward Corey Rogers and an outstanding game in goal by senior keeper Andrew Bates into a 2-1 win over the Frankfort Panthers in the Frankfort Rotary Capital City Soccer Classic at Sower Field Tuesday night.
The Wolverines, 2-2, play Owen County Thursday night at 8 in Round 2, while the 1-2 Panthers take on Franklin County at 6 Thursday.
Franklin County routed Owen County, 10-0, in the nightcap of a doubleheader Tuesday.
The tournament wraps up Saturday night, with FHS vs. Owen County at 6 and WHHS vs. FCHS at 8.
Tuesday’s Western Hills-Frankfort match was well played most of the way, with both sides mustering several golden scoring opportunities, both playing with great intensity, and both getting solid work in goal — WHHS from Bates and Frankfort from senior Church Gray.
Rogers’ two goals were both things of beauty.
With six minutes gone in the second half of a scoreless tie, Rogers knocked home his own corner kick. And then he scored again with 7:40 left in the game off an assist from senior forward Grayson Arnold.
It’s not unusual for Arnold to make a nice assist. But scoring off a corner kick? Well, that’s another matter completely.
“He got lucky on that one,” Western Hills coach Emmanuel Nfor said of Rogers’ corner. “That’s pretty rare. But it’s something we talk about at practice a little ... ‘just shoot for the goal...you never know what will happen.’”
“At my club team, they tell us to try to score off the corner kick, so that’s what I try to do,” Rogers said. “And I finally beat Church (Gray) for once.”
Hills’ 1-0 lead and the momentum it garnered did not last long, however.
Frankfort tied it at 1-1 with 29 minutes left off a straight in, hard shot by junior halfback Keenan Thurman.
That rattled the Wolverines, and the Panthers took the initiative for several minutes, though FHS could not punch another goal by Bates.
“Bates was excellent,” Nfor said. “He’s taking more and more of a leadership role, and he’s at a point where he’s really controlling things back there for us. He’s always there for the big saves.”
“Our keeper is the best,” Rogers said of Bates. “We love him. We all love him.”
Western Hills finally erased the Frankfort momentum over the last 10 to 15 minutes - a period that coincided with renewed composure and determination, along with leg cramps to Thurman of the Panthers.
“When they (Panthers) scored their goal, their emotion was high and the crowd was yelling, and we panicked a little bit,” Nfor said. “But they regained their footing real fast and we got the game back under control and finished it out.”
The Wolverines’ late surge was capped by Arnold’s corner kick to Rogers, who scored on a header.
“Me and Grayson were talking before we started, and we said, ‘We’ve got this game, it’s on us,’” Rogers said. “And he played me a beautiful ball, and I did what I could to put it away.”
Frankfort coach Sherrill Smith was disappointed with what he saw as lapses in both concentration and composure from his Panthers.
“Overall we played fine,” said Smith, a long-time member of Frankfort’s Rotary Club. “(But) There are some things that we need to work on, on the mental side of the game. Maintaining our composure for 80 minutes. Staying focused. Listening to assignments and following through on them.
“But I think we’ll be fine,” Smith added. “I see bright things for us.”