Oct. 14—MOREHEAD — Right before kickoff Wednesday night, Rowan County's Chase Alderman jogged from one side of the field to the other, realigning the Vikings' formation.
Boyd County's Maverick Boyd followed him. It was a sign of the Lions' intentions, and it was foreshadowing of things to come in the 16th Region Tournament championship game.
"I've never had a team that I gave so much freedom to," Boyd County coach Logan Price said. "Soccer IQ, if we're gonna have that, let's use it. I give Maverick free rein. Maverick says, if I'm gonna be the best defender, I'm gonna take the best mark. He's a gamer, man, and he stepped up."
The Lions and Vikings indeed stuck close enough to be in each other's hip pockets for 90 minutes of scoreless soccer at Paul Ousley Stadium.
Then, all of a sudden, they couldn't miss.
Boyd County and Rowan County combined to convert their first five kicks from the mark, with a region championship on the line, before the Vikings' third try was a carom off the right goalpost.
That was all the opening the Lions' JB Terrill and Rylan Keelin needed. Terrill sank Boyd County's fourth try, which Alderman — moved to goalkeeper from the field to defend PKs with his listed-at-6-foot-5-frame — answered.
That left Boyd County up one PK, 4-3, entering the final round. Then Keelin buried his try into the left side of the net to clinch the Lions' victory.
"I knew I was gonna make it," Keelin said, clutching the region championship trophy. "It was a big moment and I was ready for it."
Keelin produced the only goal of the 2018 region tournament final as a freshman. On Wednesday, he became the only Lion in program history to play in two region championship victories and was named tournament most valuable player.
"I could feel the confidence oozing off the bench with the guys" as Keelin stepped to the spot, Price said. "Rylan's not a vocal guy. He leads by example; he leads by play. To see him get that moment as the true captain of the team, it was beautiful, it really was."
Cole Thompson, Grant Chaffin and Boyd also made their kicks from the mark for the Lions (18-2). Aaron Smart and Will Carlisle converted for Rowan County (14-4-1) before the third shot missed.
"We play good as a team. It's not only me," Keelin said. "We knew what we needed to do, and we got it."
Rowan County keeper Gavin Stanley and Boyd County goalie Carter Gibson took turns trading sensational saves, with some help from their friends, in regulation and overtime to keep clean sheets.
Stanley slapped Terrill's shot over the crossbar in the 16th minute and did the same in the 30th. He dove on Alec Lawson's cross in the 28th and parried Thompson's shot before diving on it in the 40th. Stanley knocked Boyd's shot from a dangerous free kick off the right post in the 47th and added another save in the 77th minute.
Gibson, not to be outdone, took the ball off Rowan County's Landin Raines's foot in the 36th, caught a long free kick bound for Raines in the box one minute later and came out to take a through ball away in the 69th minute.
Chaffin, Cole Sexton, Boyd and Aiden McCoy added pivotal clearances for the Lions. Price credited Rowan County's back line and holding mids with keeping Boyd County's offense from getting much going.
Rowan County set Alderman off on a run in the 89th minute down the left side. He got free momentarily as Gibson worked to defend his net.
"I can't tell you what I was thinking" in that moment, Price cracked.
Vikings coach Max Hammond III thought Rowan County had found the thread.
"For sure, man. I thought we had it," Hammond said.
Not Gibson. He saved Alderman's shot to get it to kicks from the mark.
"Keeper was just there and we didn't put it far enough over from the keeper," Hammond said. "There's a big chunk of that goal that was open; we just didn't hit it."
It was a tough end to a brilliant season for the tournament host Vikings.
"Obviously on our home field, we wanted to come out and get this one," Hammond said. "We weren't able to knock one in the back of the net when it mattered most. I thought defensively we played great, keeper played awesome ... offensively, we just didn't capitalize on our chances. You don't get one of those in, that's what it comes down to."
Price added Thompson is "tough as woodpecker lips" and noted that Terrill has played in four soccer games and run in two cross country meets in a span of seven days.
"This guy's the terminator, man," Price said of Terrill. "He's a machine. So is Grant (Chaffin, also a dual-sport soccer and cross country athlete)."
Boyd County will host the to-be-determined 14th Region Tournament champion next week in the semi-state round. The date has not yet been set, Price said.
The KHSAA drew earlier Wednesday by region to set the tournament bracket. Based on their RPI, the Lions knew they would host their next game if they beat the Vikings.
"We didn't hide from that," Price said. "We saw that today and that was something we got excited about. We wanted it; we got it."
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Menifee County — Brent Wells; Greenup County — Aaron Brown; East Carter — Breck Sargent, Ammos Witter; Ashland — Parker Miller, Drew Clark; Rowan County — Chase Alderman, Riley Hutchinson, Aaron Smart; Boyd County — Grant Chaffin, JB Terrill, Aiden McCoy
MVP — Rylan Keelin, Boyd County