Marshall County takes a 15-6-2 record, the District 2 championship and home field advantage into Region 1 tournament play tonight at Colburn Stadium.
The Marshals will take on Lone Oak in the nightcap at 7 p.m. after Heath and Calloway County open play at 5. The Marshals opened their season with a 2-0 victory against Lone Oak on Aug. 14.
The Purple Flash, runners-up in the District 1 tourney, are 8-12-1. But Marshals coach Andy Pagel pointed out that the Flash, despite a losing record last year and an only slightly better mark in 2010, made it to the region final both years.
The Marshals, who went to the region tournament last year as district runner-up after falling to Graves County 1-0 in the district championship match, fell to Heath on penalty kicks in their region tourney opener last year.
Marshall County won region titles in 2009 and 2010 and the goal is a return to state this year.
Pagel, in his second year at the helm of the program where he was formerly a player, wants to see his team keep doing some of the things that carried them to the district championship and to improve on other aspects of the game.
“We have to go back to doing some basic things – clearing the ball, moving from one side to the other,” he said. “But we did something [in two district tourney games] we didn’t do a lot this year – we didn’t display a lot of toughness.”
Heath, which shut out Lone Oak 2-0 in the District 1 final, has the best record in the region at 17-1-2 and owns a 4-1 victory over Marshall County in the one meeting between the two teams this year.
The Pirates were undefeated against Region 1 competition, losing only to Owensboro Catholic 5-4 on Sept. 16. Their two draws came against Owensboro Sept. 22 in the Marshall County Big Orange Classic tournament and at Calloway County on Sept. 29.
The four-team region tournament is a toss-up, Pagel figures.
“Everybody’s got injuries,” he said. “It’s about character and adjustments and survival.”
The Marshals defeated Graves County and Calloway County to claim the district championship and the right to host the region tourney.
Senior Brock Herndon savored the district title.
“It feels absolutely incredible,” he said. “We knew what we had to do and we came out here and we did it.”
MC 1, Calloway Co. 0
For the second match in a row, sophomore forward David Penney kicked an early goal to put the Marshals ahead. But the top-seeded team got no chance to relax after that, and had to ride the one-goal lead to victory in Thursday night’s District 2 championship match.
“They were scary tonight,” Marshals coach Andy Pagel said of the Lakers. “Neither team had a lot of chances tonight. It was battle, battle, battle.”
Hayden Evans got the assist on Penney’s goal, deflecting the ball downfield and then passing to Penny.
“He played a through ball to David,” Pagel said. “David is so dangerous. He was the player of the game for us tonight. Hayden just played him in stride and he finished it. Dynamic little guy.”
Brock Herndon echoed his coach’s sentiments about Penney.
“He’s a scrapper,” Herndon said. “He’s the reason we won tonight. He stepped up. He challenged every ball and fortunately put one in the net for us.”
MC 2, Graves Co. 1
Brock Herndon’s direct kick bent past Graves County goalkeeper Hunter Sheppard and into the right corner of the net in the second half to break a 1-1 tie and lift the Marshals to a semifinal victory Thursday.
David Penney put the Marshals on top 1-0 in the opening minutes of the match. Minutes before intermission, the Eagles’ leading scorer, junior Isaac Marrs, got his 14th goal of the season to tie it at 1-1.
Herndon’s winner was also the 14th goal of the year for the senior stalwart.