BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLANDWith one swift kick, Sam Ewing turned a disappointing moment for Russell’s boys soccer team into the game-changer.
Ewing connected on a free-kick bomb from near the sideline to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Red Devils on their way to a 5-2 victory over Ashland in Monday’s opener of the 63rd District Tournament.
Seconds earlier, one of Ewing’s teammates picked up a yellow card for repositioning the ball after an official had spotted it for the kick.
Play resumed with Ewing firing a laser into the net from 25 yards out, touching off a celebration by Russell players and fans at Ashland Soccer Complex. “The one he hit from over there, it was a fantastic shot,” Ashland coach Ed Belville said. Belville had to be specific on a night when Ewing enjoyed a huge game with four goals — which he called a personal best.
“It came at a great time,” the senior said. “It’s special because of the emotion and importance of the game. It was win or go home. It could have been the last game for our seniors. We came out with a chip on our shoulder because they beat us the last time.”
Ashland won their Sept. 21 matchup, 3-1, on the same pitch after Russell defeated the Tomcats earlier in the season.
“Tonight was a very physical game,” Red Devils coach Marty Torgrimson said. “I’ve reffed and coached around here since the late ’90s. Russell-Ashland is always competitive and hard-fought. I’m extremely proud of our effort tonight.”
Ashland honored its five seniors prior to Monday’s battle.
One of them, Cameron Miller, scored the game’s first goal on a long free kick that Russell’s goalkeeper misdirected into the net.
Another Tomcat senior, Blaine Collins, drilled a low cross to set up freshman Calyx Holmes for a goal. It came in the 33rd minute and produced a 2-2 tie at halftime.
However, the Tomcats couldn’t find a way to slow down Ewing. He scored two goals before the break and two more in the second half to give the Red Devils a 4-2 advantage.
“He’s an athlete, a good kid and a really good soccer player,” Belville said. “We key on him, but he found opportunities and took them.”
Ewing’s fourth goal came off Nolan Sabotchick’s wellplaced pass forward.
Ewing outmaneuvered a defender and made his shot count.
“Sam is an extremely competitive individual,” Torgrimson said. “He’s a quiet kid, but when it’s game time you know he’s ready to play. He has learned if you pass a little more and dribble a little less, you get more opportunities.”
Connor Rigsby added a goal for Russell in the 67th minute. “We played really well,” Ewing said. “We worked together connecting passes, and our defense stepped up tonight after a few mistakes and showed how tough we are.”
Russell (6-8-1) advances to meet topseeded Boyd County for the championship Wednesday night at 6.
Both teams will move on to the 16th Region Tournament.
“Boyd County is a tough team to face,” Torgrimson said.
“They’re a very physical team. They’re also a larger team and platoon their players in.
We don’t have as many.”
Ashland finished 514, with four of the wins coming in the last two weeks of the regular season.
“It’s easy to fall apart and give up, but these kids never did,” Belville said. “We will come back next year and go at it just as hard.”
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