BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS In the blink of an eye, Russell heeded its coach’s warning.
After a lackluster 15 minutes and a quick 2-0 deficit to open its match with Ashland, coach Randy Vanover issued a stern instruction: “Wake up, or I’m going to take everyone out of the game!”
The Red Devils answered the call, producing 65 stellar minutes of soccer and a 5-2 win over the Tomcats at the Russell Soccer Complex on Thursday night.
“I’ve been waiting on them to put the whole game together,” Vanover said. “I’ve been on them about being extremely focused. They didn’t come out focused, but they found it. If we ever come out and start the whole game like that, we will be hard to beat.”
Nolan Sabotchick collected a hat trick to bring his season total to 24 goals. Max Cantrell tallied in the 19th minute when he collected a rebound off a Sabotchick shot and booted to the back of the net. Gabe Floyd knotted the contest two minutes later. The Tomcats could not clear a Russell corner kick and the ball bounced out to Floyd at the top of the box.
The junior sent it back to the goal and it deflected off the keeper and trickled into the net.
“They scored that first goal and they got that momentum swing,” Ashland coach Ed Belville said. “Then popped the second one in and it’s a new game. They scored a penalty kick and we put our heads down. (We) played beat most of the game after that.”
“The effort was there,” he added. “Calyx Holmes, I couldn’t want any more from a player. He played like a champion today. Parker Miller played well. Zach Hinderliter played outstanding, but we need 11 guys on the field to play that way all the time. We have come a long way this season.”
Vanover was pleased to see an increased offensive production from his team.
“In the last three games, I’ve had five goals from somebody not named Nolan Sabotchick,” Vanover said. “That is big for us because we are easy to stop if it’s just Nolan.”
Holmes sprang Ashland to an early lead. He sprinted past the Red Devils back line to net a goal at the 27-minute mark of the first half. Not long after, he spun around defenders in the box and scored with a back-heel shot.
Holmes’ high energy will be crucial for Ashland (3-10-1) moving forward, according to Belville.
“The kid covered offense and he covered defense,” Belville said. “He played the whole width of the field. He was everywhere today. That is nothing new for him. We know that (about him), we just have to free him up to get some shots as well as opening shots for other people.”
Sabotchick found a scoring run late in the first half. The Tomcats tried to win a keeper kick, but the header went in an opposite direction and was taken by Sabotchick who beat the keeper inside the rightpost. He put another through with a penalty kick to give Russell a 4-2 lead at halftime.
Sabotchick called his own number late in the match. He weaved around defenders to score his third goal of the night with eight minutes remaining.
Vanover said it’s Sabotchick’s passing ability that sets him apart.
“I told Nolan in practice (on Wednesday) that if he got somebody else involved real quick,” Vanover said, “then he would score a hat trick.
That came true tonight.”
Russell (6-7-1) and Ashland will meet for a third time in the opening round of the 63rd District Tournament next month. Both teams finished with a 1-3 district seeding record. Boyd County will be the top seed.
“I like the way they fought back,” Vanover said. “They kept the pressure on all night. We moved the ball extremely well. It is something we have been really working on. It led to a lot of shots.”