Henry Clay rolls in boys’ finals
Lexington Herald Leader / www.kentucky.com
October 18, 2019
Henry Clay’s Sota Ippongi scored the first of his three goals less than nine minutes into the game and the Blue Devils’ eased to their second consecutive 11th Region boys’ title with a 6-0 win over Great Crossing’s inaugural squad.
“He’s a special player,” Henry Clay Coach Jason Behler said of his senior standout. “Sometimes you get players that think they are better than a game, think the team should win easily and don’t try as hard. He respects every team. We all do. That’s part of the reason he’s so effective in these games. He’s going to play everybody like they’re an All-American.”
Playing their second night on a Sower Soccer Complex grass field in Frankfort that is a bit smaller than their home turf, Henry Clay (21-1-3) opted to put on a high press and force Great Crossing (14-3-3) to pass under duress deep in their own end.
Ippongi’s first goal came after he intercepted the ball at midfield and took it straight at the keeper. Five minutes later, Ippongi fed Chris Sanders for the second goal. Midway through the half, Tahj Jairam made it 3-0 and the rout was on.
“I think every one of our games was a statement in the regional tournament and I think we were dominant in the first halves of all of those games with the exception of the Tates Creek game, which was pretty even,” Behler said.
The statement the No. 2 Blue Devils are sending is that they’re ready to make another deep run in the state tournament. Last year, Henry Clay backed into the postseason with a sub-.500 record and then blazed into the state semifinals where they lost to eventual champion St. Xavier. St. X is No. 1 in the Maher Rankings this season.
But Behler’s team’s focus is only on their semi-state opener against Calvary Christian next week.
“You don’t get to this point without being locked in, Behler said. “We’ve never really been a team to look ahead to anything, this group especially, because last year they weren’t expected to do a whole lot so we always just look at everything as ‘the next game.’ … They’ve approached this season with that same mentality.”