BARDSTOWN – What had been one of the best seasons in the program’s history came to an early end last week as the Bullitt East boys’ soccer team was knocked out of the Ninth District Soccer Tournament by Nelson County 3-2 in the semi-finals.
Bullitt East had beaten Nelson County 4-2 during the regular season. Coach Mike Brangers’ team had beaten Nelson County in the district semi-finals each of the past two seasons and they were looking forward to another showdown with state-power Bethlehem in the championship game.
“I was confident that we would be playing in the finals as well,” Brangers said later in the week. “I thought that we were the better team and that we had prepared ourselves for the match.
“I hated to lose that match after moving so close to the top of the district,” the coach added.
It was just a horrible start for the Chargers as Nelson County scored twice in the first three minutes of the match. Right off the bat, the Cardinals dribbled through the Charger defense and had a shot from close range find the back of the net. Moments later, a free kick that appeared to be more of a pass than a shot, slipped through the Charger defense and into the goal.
“The first two goals were a lack of focus,” Brangers said. “We were just not ready to play.”
Nelson County dropped back on defense after getting the quick lead and Bullitt East had chances to score throughout the first half but could not dent the goal.
Early in the second half, Nelson County pushed through another goal to make it 3-0. This time Bullitt East answered, getting a pair of goals from Davide Fellini. Unfortunately, the rally to get that close took a lot out of the red and gold and they did not have enough left for a final push.
Bullitt East had a 12-4 record heading into the post-season after playing perhaps the most difficult schedule in school history. Three of the losses came to teams ranked among the top-25 in the state - Bethlehem, Manual and West Jessamine. There was also a loss to North Hardin in the first game of the season.
“We talked about the match about the success of our season,” Brangers said. “So much is put on that one match and all Bullitt East teams will be measured by the district semi-final, but we played probably the most difficult schedule in school history and had a decent record.
“We did have a successful season and my returning guys are hungry to go further next year,” the coach noted.
Brangers did say that Bullitt East will host the Ninth District Tournament next season, something that has not happened before. Bullitt East did host the girls’ district tournament a couple of years ago, but has not hosted a boys’ event. Those tournaments have always been played at one of the Nelson County schools.
Nelson County had earned the right to play Bullitt East in the semi-finals after beating Bullitt Central 11-1.
Bullitt Central had trouble scoring goals this season, but they surprised everyone with an early goal against Nelson County that made it 1-1 in the first half. Unfortunately, they could not sustain that attack and Nelson County went on to the easy win.
Nelson County had beaten Bullitt Central 5-0 during the regular season.
“I think that goal made them mad,” Nelson County coach Lee Brothers told the Bardstown Standard of the effect on his team.
Bullitt Central did not win a match this season but did get a pair of ties.
North Bullitt put up a tough fight in the other first round game before falling to Bardstown 2-1. The game was tied until the Tigers scored off a rebound of an indirect kick with four minutes remaining in the game.
North Bullitt had beaten Bardstown 2-0 during the regular season. That gave North Bullitt the number four seed for the district while Bardstown was seeded fifth. Bardstown had lost its first nine games of the season before rallying to win seven of its last eight.
Coach Jose Rivera’s North Bullitt team did pick up six victories this season.
Bethlehem won its third straight Ninth District title. The Eagles defeated Bardstown 8-0 in one semi-final and then knocked off Nelson County 4-0 in the championship game.