1. Lyon’s Cullan Brown Pulls Off Miraculous Save On 18
I am not a golfer. I grew up close to a golf course but played fewer than five times in my entire life. I am also not a painter, but there are times when I see a painting and I know without a doubt that I’m looking at something special. I felt the same way the first time I saw Cullan Brown play golf. It was my first-ever assignment with YSE, and I tagged along with Scott when he went to interview Cullan for a Spotlight story. We talked to Cullan and his family for awhile and then got some photos and video of him hitting some shots at Mineral Mound. I left that day certain that I had met not just an incredible golfer, but an equally special person.
That brings me to my top moment I have covered during my time at YSE. Cullan was the defending state champion and was looking for his third-straight region title when his tee shot on the Par 5 18th hole at the Country Club of Paducah found the trees. He sailed his second shot over the green and was forced to take a drop, putting Marshall County’s Jay Nimmo in control after he birdied the hole.
However, Cullan was not done yet. Instead he pulled off a miraculous shot over a tree to land just off the green. He followed with a chip to within a foot of the cup and saved par, forcing a playoff. He beat Nimmo on the second playoff hole, and in true Cullan fashion, afterward he insisted the title-saving shot “appeared a lot harder than it was.”
2. Fred Tandy’s Heroics Send Colonels Past Tigers
Fred Tandy has always been one of my favorite athletes to interview. From the bouncy way he walks to the ever-present smile, he is someone I will always remember. Another thing I will always remember is his heroics in the semifinals of the 2018-19 8th District tournament.
Trailing Hopkinsville by a basket with seconds left, Tandy found himself open in the corner and drilled a 3-pointer in front of the Colonel bench to give Christian County the lead. With everyone running up court, he stepped in front of the Tigers’ James Nicholas to intercept the inbounds pass and laid it in to send the Colonel players and fans into a frenzy. As much as the 5 points in 5 seconds and the ensuing celebration, what sticks out most to me is the long embrace coach Kerry Stovall and Tandy shared on the way to the locker room. It was clear Coach Stovall, winner of hundreds of games and a state title, held Fred in high regard just like I did.
3. Lady Blazers Keep Their Nerve in Shootout Win
The 2019 Madisonville-North Hopkins girls’ soccer team was a runaway train heading into a 2nd Region semifinal matchup with University Heights Academy, with the Lady Maroons unbeaten since an opening-night loss to Greenwood and outscoring its opponents 109-16. But after a narrow 2-1 loss in Madisonville just over two weeks before, the Lady Blazers were not intimidated. UHA took a 1-0 lead at the half on a goal from Grace Pape, but the Lady Maroons equalized in the second half through the region’s leading scorer, Camryn LaGrange.
Neither team could find the breakthrough in overtime and the match went to a PK shootout, the third of the season for the Lady Blazers. UHA held its nerve in the shootout, with Piper Hancock converting the deciding PK to kick off the Green and Gold celebration.
I remember waiting to do interviews after the game and thinking how tired the Lady Blazers looked as they stretched. I also recall thinking about what that season had taken out of them and what they had overcome to get to that point. After the graduation the last two years of All-State players Alli Cundiff and Lilly Strader, coupled with an offseason injury to Kate Cansler, UHA could have been forgiven if they had fallen back to the pack to rebuild. Instead, the Lady Blazers rejected any excuses, transforming themselves from a team that scored 103 goals and outscored opponents by 58 goals the previous season to a defensive force that held opposition to only 27 goals total, forging their own identity over the course of a phenomenal season.
4. Rebels Ride Wave of Support to 5-0
On September 15, 2017 on Homecoming Night in Elkton, the Todd County Central football team was looking to move to 4-0 for the first time since 1974 and only the second time in program history. Only a season removed from an 0-11 mark, the Rebels were sky-high for the meeting with Fulton City. The stands were packed and the community was energized, with the Homecoming festivities only adding to the excitement of the team’s historic start. An hour delay to wait for the referees to arrive did little to dampen the crowd’s spirit, and they did not have to wait long for the Rebels to give them what they were there to see.
Fulton City never stood a chance, walking into the Todd County buzz saw and trailing 54-6 at halftime. Isaiah Fingers posted two TDs and 120 yards rushing, followed by Jaquavion Mimms with 111 yards on the ground and two scores. Bryce Nolan, Nick Tutor, and QB Asa Young each had a rushing touchdown, with Young only attempting a single pass in the first half.
As the start of the second half neared, word came that due to an already slim roster, coupled with injuries sustained in the first half, the Bulldogs would not be able to continue and Todd County Central was awarded the victory.
The Rebels would go on to lose four of six to close the regular season at 6-4, before losing to Mayfield in the first round of the playoffs. However, regardless of how the rest of the season went, the spirit of optimism on that night in Elkton and the way the community rallied around the Rebels’ early season success will stick with me for a long time.
5. Kristian Shouse Makes Lady Colonels’ Senior Night Unforgettable
The Christian County Lady Colonels were on a mission during the ’17-18 season, rolling to a 19-7 regular season record before capturing their first 5th-District title in eight years. A trip to the 2nd Region title game followed, where the Lady Colonels’ season ended with a loss to Webster County.
The Lady Colonels created memories and relationships that will last a lifetime, including one particular connection that went well beyond sport and captured the hearts of countless people. Christian County student Kristian Shouse developed a special bond with the team and with senior LaDeria Gold specifically. The team decided to recognize Kristian by making her an honorary starter for the Senior Night matchup with Hopkinsville on February 2. She took full advantage of her opportunity, knocking down a jumper in front of the Christian County bench to send the Lady Colonels and the fans in attendance into a frenzy.
The Lady Colonels congratulated Kristian, with an emotional Gold starting the game against the Lady Tigers with tears in her eyes. The juxtaposition of the impending battle with their biggest rival against the tender moment was jarring, showing what sports can do for people at its best. Along with everyone else in attendance that night and all those who watched the video, I count myself lucky to have shared in Kristian’s big night.
6. Storm Rages, But UHA’s Tomas Duncan Cruises
Going into the 2019 Area 1 Class A region cross country meet, it did not appear that the rest of the field would present much of a barrier to UHA’s Tomas Duncan claiming his third-straight region title on a muddy course at Marshall County High School. However, the weather would prove to be more of an obstacle.
Despite significant rainfall in the days leading up to the race and more forecast for later in the day, the skies were relatively clear as the runners lined up. That would change quickly, with a violent storm blowing in midway through the race. I decided to make a run for the parking lot to take shelter and keep my camera dry, but by the time I got there I was soaked to the bone. After the storm eased, I made my way back to the finish line to find out the results. While very few people other than the race officials saw the conclusion, Duncan had braved the storm and the standing water to take to the top spot with a time of 17:17.12. In fact, the Blazers had dominated the race, with Duncan’s younger brother Tobias finishing second just ahead of teammate Walter Kunnmann.
Only a junior, Duncan would go on to claim 4th place at the state meet, the school’s first top-5 showing, while being named to the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches’ Association All-Area 1 Cross Country Team, as well as Class A Athlete of the Year. He was also named to the All-Area 1st Team and they KTCCCA All-State Team. Duncan’s senior campaign will undoubtedly bring more highs with a college career also in the cards, but he may never again run in a race as strange and frightening as his 2019 region win.
7. Hoptown Soccer Finally Breaks Through At State
A year removed from a painful end to a spectacular season, the Hopkinsville boys’ soccer team entered the 2018 season with many around the region feeling its time had passed. Nonetheless, the Tigers finished a strong regular season 12-6-2, although a late-season 6-0 loss to Warren Central and a Senior Night draw with Trigg County served to refocus the Tigers for a post-season run.
Hoptown cruised to a district title win over UHA, before putting together a dominant run through the regional tournament, outscoring their three opponents 19-1, and culminating in a 2-0 win over Henderson County in the title game.
However, the Tigers had been here before, and frustration had always followed. Eight times the program had raised the 2nd-Region trophy, only for each season to come to an end in the semi-state round. The Tigers would go on the road to face Calloway County and senior scoring machine Jacob Smith, who had notched 50 goals on the season and downed Marshall County with a hat trick in the Region 1 title game.
After a scoreless first half, Steven Hermosillo opened the scoring for the Tigers, before Smith equalized for the Lakers with just under 12 minutes to play. In need of a hero, Hopkinsville turned to the senior who had done it for them all season, with Ryan Roussel taking a pass from Zach Moore and scoring with 9 minutes to play. In a poetic turn, the goal to finally get the Tigers over the hump was the 100th of Roussel’s career.
In the aftermath of the victory, I felt proud of the program where I had played as part of the first class to play four years of soccer at Hopkinsville. I also remember the visible relief on the face of Tigers’ coach Tyler Stallons, and looking across the field and seeing Hopkinsville assistant Tim Noel facetiming his son Ethan, one the stars of the previous season’s Tiger team, so that he could share in the milestone.
Although I have spent the last 17 years coaching at Trigg County and finding myself on the wrong end against the Tigers many times, I feel lucky to have been on the field in some capacity when the program that meant so much to me as a player took the next step toward what will hopefully be a future state championship.
8. UHA’s Grace Pape Flashes Star Credentials with Long-Range Hat Trick
Its not easy to make a name for yourself in a program as rich in talent as the UHA girls’ soccer team has been over the last few years, with All-State level players like Alli Cundiff and Lilly Strader, the 8th District’s all-time leading scorer, leading the Lady Blazers under coach Michael Parker. On player who wasted little time establishing herself is midfielder Grace Pape. After not scoring as a freshman, Pape took a huge leap forward as a sophomore, scoring 16 goals to help the Lady Blazers to a 13-7 record that included a district title and an appearance in the 2nd Region championship match.
While Strader led the team in scoring, Pape’s goals tended to be of the sensational, long-range variety. That shooting prowess was on display in the Lady Blazers’ district title win over Christian County at Fort Campbell’s Fryar Stadium on October 11, 2018. With the game scoreless through much of the first half, Pape struck first with a 35-yard blast that dropped in over Lady Colonel goalkeeper Payton Hale, putting the Lady Blazers in front with just over 15 minutes to play in the half. But she was not done. Less than two minutes later she scored from the top of the 18-yard box to double the advantage, with the best yet to come. After already having shown off the power in her left leg, Pape showed some finesse when she capped her hat trick a few seconds before the halftime break. After glancing up and seeing Hale off her line in front of the County goal, Pape curled a glorious effort into the side netting to put the Lady Blazers in total control.
UHA would go on to win 3-1, its third-straight district title, with Pape symbolically accepting the torch to carry the Green and Gold forward. Of course she would deliver on that promise, leading the Lady Blazers in scoring as a junior and securing another district title, with the season once again coming to an end with a loss in the regional title match.
9. Blazers’ Isiah Pantiere Turns Class A Region Meet into Personal Showcase
By the time UHA’s Isiah Pantiere made his way to the Region 1 Class A meet at Murray High on May 18, 2019, no one needed any more evidence of the type of athlete he is, but he would provide reinforcement in emphatic fashion with his performance. He would enter four events that Saturday, taking the top spot in each to help the Blazer boys to a 3rd-place overall finish.
Pantiere cruised on the track, crossing the finish line first in the 100M (11.06) and 200M (22.57), while also overcoming his blocks giving way to run away with the 400M (51.27). He would find the Long Jump a little more challenging, nevertheless earning top honors by edging out Crittenden County’s Branen Lamey with a jump of 20-04.
Pantiere would go on to bigger stages, winning three Class A state titles, including a record-setting performance in the 200M, becoming the first Blazer male to take home a state title and holding school records in all four events. He signed to continue his career at the University of Louisville, confirming his status as one of the top track and field athletes the region has seen.
10. Warrior Seniors Cap Careers with Title-Game Run
After a junior season disrupted by a mid-season coaching change that resulted in only two wins, Heritage Christian Academy’s ten seniors returned in search of a signature campaign in 2018-19. Led by the trio of Gavin Fowler, Rajah Mills, and Dalton Folz, and with coach Matt McGowan settling in for his first full season in charge, the Warriors topped Oak Ridge to win the region and head to the KCAA state tournament as a 3-seed.
In the opener at Asbury College, Mills led the way with 22 points, followed closely by Fowler with 21, and the Warriors eased past Oak Ridge Christian 67-55 to set up a rematch with Somerset Christian in the championship game. The Warriors had upset the Cougars in the state-tourney play in game the previous season, but Somerset smacked HCA 77-43 in the teams’ regular-season meeting for some measure of revenge.
Making their first title-game appearance since the 2012-13 season, the Warriors jumped out to an early advantage, but a late run gave the Cougars a 6-point lead at halftime. Somerset continued to wear down HCA after the break, but Fowler got going with 17 second-half points to keep the Warriors within striking distance. However, the Cougars did the job at the free throw line to hold on for a 10-point win. The HCA big three all reached double figures in the loss, with Fowler finishing with 20, Mills adding 14, and Folz scoring 11.
Despite the loss, the Warriors had gone down fighting, giving the seniors the send-off they deserved, while returning the program to the heights it had become accustomed to in years past. Fowler was named to the All-State team and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Mills. Fowler and Folz were each invited to the KCAA All-Star Game, while all three played in the National Athletic Association of Private Schools All-American Game.