REGIONAL ROUT: Oldham County’s Jared Kemper (9) hugs teammate Jason Karrel (19) after Karrel scored a goal in the Colonels’ 5-0 win over Carroll County on Monday night. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
REGIONAL ROUT: Oldham County’s Jared Kemper (9) hugs teammate Jason Karrel (19) after Karrel scored a goal in the Colonels’ 5-0 win over Carroll County on Monday night. (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
It took everything the Panthers could muster but Carroll County played a very good Oldham County squad even for the first 35 minutes of Monday night's Eighth Region Tournament boys soccer quarterfinal in Carrollton.

But in the end talent and tradition won out and the Colonels outscored the Panthers 5-0 the rest of the game to advance to tonight's regional semifinals while ending what has been a storybook season for Carroll County.

"Some of the guys were disappointed but you can't be too disappointed," Carroll head coach Ben Crutcher said afterwards. "We won our conference and we won district both for the first time and I think we can repeat as both next year. To get here was like the icing on the cake for us."

Not that Carroll County came into the game satisfied to just be speed bump on the Colonels' road to tonight's semifinal matchup with Simon Kenton in Crestwood, Ky., but the Panthers were overmatch in all aspects of Monday's game.

Oldham County controlled play from the outset, outshot the Panthers 17-3 in the first half while building a 2-0 lead and then slammed the door shut with three more goals in the second half while working a dominating shutout.

Carroll County's best opportunities to break up the shutout came about midway through the first half when a nice shot by senior Brandon Stewart looped just over the crossbar minutes before Oldham goalkeeper Dean Morgan knocked down a bang-bang Carroll County shot in a scrum.

"Granted, they had us on our heels the whole game but we did the best we could," Crutcher said. "That shot of Brandon's dipped right after it went over that crossbar. If that had got in it would have been a big game changer for us. It would have been like 2-1 and I think that could have changed the momentum but we played hard and we did the best we could. There wasn't a whole lot we could do."

Oldham got the only goal the Colonels would need just over 35 minutes into the game when Jason Karrel picked up the ball in the middle of a scrum off a throw-in and beat Carroll County's freshman goalie Jay Damron for a 1-0 lead. Less than four minutes later Jonathan Huerta scored for the Colonels and the 2-0 lead proved to more than enough cushion.

"We knew coming in that they were a very technical team and moved the ball around very quick," Crutcher said. "We kind of had a scouting report on what they'd be keying on but they are just so tough. Oldham County has been playing soccer for so long. We're still a young program. Of course we're 10 years old, but we're still kind of young. We were co-ed up until three years ago ... we've come a long way in three years and I'm very happy. We've accomplished all of our goals this year. We're going to finally hang a conference and district banner in the gym. It's been 10 years coming but we're finally going to get to do it!"

Carroll managed to possess the ball much more in the second half but the Colonels adjusted to the conditions and capitalized on their opportunities much better than in the first half. Oldham went up 3-0 18:45 into the second period and 4-0 just under three minutes later. The Colonels' final marker came with just 12 seconds left in the game for the final 5-0 tally.

According to Crutcher, one of the Panthers' allies coming into the game was home field advantage - or disadvantage in the case of Panther Field. As the 31st District champion, Carroll got to host 29th District runner-up Oldham, which had lost to powerful South Oldham 2-1 in a game decided on penalty kicks.

"We were kind of hoping we could use our field to our advantage," Crutcher laughed while referring to Carroll's "narrow ... chunky and bumpy" pitch that also serves as the school's venue for football. "I'd noticed on their schedule that they had not played on a field like this - they've played at some very nice places - and I was thinking 'Let's take advantage of our crappy field and see what we can do with it.' But Oldham got here really early today and I think that was why. We did the best we could do. There wasn't much more we could do. They're just solid."

At the same time, Crutcher noted that while Oldham was the superior team Monday night, the Panthers are closing the gap on the region's top programs. The coach of 10 years has seen his program grow from district doormat to regional qualifier. Carroll led the region in goals scored this season and was second in wins - achievements that make Crutcher want to strengthen the Panthers' schedule so that the program can continue to grow in the future.

"We were once in (Oldham's) district but we never actually played them," Crutcher said. "We opted out of it just because they were so beyond our level. Several years ago when we played them we lost 15-0 - that was before there was a mercy rule - they were just so much better than us back then. We've come a long way.

Crutcher loses five seniors - Jay Damron, Brandon Stewart, Josh Mccarty, Chase Osborne an Jacob Beach - for a second consecutive season, but he has younger players who can step into those holes and roles.

" I think we can repeat as conference and district champs," Crutcher said. "We've got a young team coming up and we'll see how it goes."