By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
The Southwestern Warriors have made a living this week by having a couple ‘Senior Moments’.
Three days removed from an impressive 8-1 victory over Clinton County on Southwestern’s ‘Senior Night’ on Monday, Sean McBride’s club traveled across town last night to PC Field to square off against the Pulaski County Maroons on PC’s ‘Senior Night’.
On a night when the Maroons said good-bye to eight seniors, it was a Southwestern senior — Kagan Brainard — that stole the show.
Brainard notched a hat trick on Thursday evening, scoring all three of his team’s goals, enabling the Warriors to end the regular season with a 12-5-3 record with a hard-fought, 3-1 victory over Pulaski County.
“I thought this was a great win for us, because I thought both teams simply played their butts off tonight,” stated a very happy coach McBride after the contest.
“The score is really not indicative of how close this game was, because we scored right at the end,” continued the Warriors coach. “They (Pulaski County) was definitely pressuring us, and both teams just played their butts off. It was a good finish, and as I said the other night, this is a much different PC team than the one we played to start the season, I promise you Pulaski County will be a factor in the post season.”
One person that was a major factor in last night’s game was a Southwestern senior, Kagan Brainard.
Brainard began his way to the hat trick by putting the Warriors on top 1-0 with just 3:41 left in the opening half of play.
That lead however would not last long.
With only :47 remaining in the first half, PC’s Jose Delgado tallied a score knotting this one up at 1-1 heading into the intermission.
In the second half, the Maroons had several opportunities to cash in for a go-ahead score, but it was a night when Pulaski County just couldn’t get its shots into the net.
“I tried to stay calm throughout, because I knew if we just kept doing our thing that eventually we would break through,” stated Pulaski County head coach Casey Inabnitt, after his team finished the regular season with a 9-7 record.
“Sometimes however it just doesn’t work out like that and tonight was one of those nights,” added the PC coach. “When we gave up the goal late to fall behind 2-1, that really put us under a lot of pressure to score, so we started getting forward, and that eventually led to us giving up another goal.”
With the score knotted up at 1-1 for much of the second half, the Maroons had three or four point-blank shots to nail down a lead, but Southwestern’s keeper — Jordan Jones — was up to the task of stopping those shots for much of the evening.
Finally, with only 12:43 left in the game, Brainard scored off a rebound in front of the net, giving the Warriors a 2-1 advantage — a lead Southwestern would never relinquish.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Brainard completed his hat trick with his third tally of the night giving the Warriors a 3-1 victory, and a regular season that saw McBride’s club win 12 games — a big-time improvement from last season’s 5-14-1 record.
“We’ve had a great season this year, and we want it to continue starting next week with the district tournament,” McBride remarked.
“We’ve had kids out there that have played a lot of minutes for us over the last two to three seasons, so we should have had a great season,” pointed out the Southwestern coach. “Last year, we competed in all of the games, but we couldn’t score — that was our biggest issue. This season offensively, we’ve just gotten so much better.”
Meanwhile for the Maroons, on a night when PC honored eight seniors — Justin Tilley, Daniel Pitman, Austin Byrd, Zach Atwell, Greg Avina, Brandon Labelle, Gerek Patrick, and Alex Wilson — Inabnitt’s club came up on the short end of the scoreboard to the Warriors, but that didn’t dampen Inabnitt’s thoughts one bit on describing the importance of this year’s senior class.
The PC coach pointed out after the loss that a lot of his program’s success since he took over as the Maroons head coach three years ago was due in large part to a very talented senior class.
“A lot of these kids have played some very big minutes for me ever since I got here,” stated Inabnitt.
“Even though I haven’t been with them for their entire high school careers, they mean a lot to me and they helped make me look a little better in some instances that I probably should have looked.”
Both the Warriors and Maroons will kick off play in district tournament action beginning next week.
On Monday night at 7:30 p.m., the Warriors will host Monticello in the championship game of the Boy’s 48th District Soccer Tournament.
On Tuesday night at PC Field, the Maroons will host arch-rival Somerset at 6:30 p.m. in the championship game of the Boy’s 47th District Soccer Tournament.