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H.C. boys' soccer improving with program's first-ever tie

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By Tommie Kendall

After starting its inaugural season with four straight losses, the Henry County boys' soccer team is starting to see progress on game day with the program's first-ever tie. The Wildcats, who are currently 0-4-1 with four games left in the regular season, tied Spencer County last Tuesday on their home field in what was one of their best games this season.

Henry tied the game, 1-1, midway through the first half, then took a 2-1 lead early in the second. But Spencer scored with five minutes left on the clock and neither team could find the back of the net again as they remained knotted up at the end of regulation. The last time the two teams played earlier in the season, Spencer came away with a 5-3 win, which shows Henry is heading in the right direction

"As a progression level, this game tells us that we are getting there," Henry coach Jay Dunavin said. "This time, we tied them and we even had the opportunity to win the game. You're always looking at each game to see if you're sliding backwards or forwards, and this game showed that we are much improved. It's just a matter of time."

Spencer scored the first goal early in the game when the ball rolled under the keeper. Then, midway through the first half, John Harp scored off an assist by Paul Leet to tie the game.

The Wildcats went ahead early in the second half when Ronney Wardrup got on a breakaway and kicked the ball though. For Wardrup, it was his first-ever goal and it couldn't have come at a better time as the Cats took their first lead of the season.

"He's one of those kids that came from football so never played soccer before," Dunavin said of the sophomore. "He was thrilled to score, as was everyone else on our team."

After Spencer tied the game later in the contest, Henry had opportunities to score during the final five minutes but could not get the ball past Spencer's keeper, who was deflecting kicks most of the game. In the end, the teams had to settle with a tie.

Dunaway credits Henry's stronger-than-normal play to guys like Wardrup- who had not played soccer before this season but are now improving to get a more balanced squad. Plus, some of Henry's key players have went down with injuries during the last few weeks, which moved others into more lead-role positions.

"I will say that we have had a lot of help from those first-year players" Dunavin said. "I can really, really see improvements. Some of our players didn't even know how to kick a ball when we first got together, but now they are doing everything out there and getting better each time they put their foot on the ball. It's definitely a team with a lot of heart."

Henry started its first season in school history with losses to Waggener (7-0), Spencer (5-3), Fairdale (6-3) and Whitefield Academy (6-0) before the Spencer tie. The Wildcats will close out regular-season play with games against Western Hills (Sept. 30), Carroll County (Oct. 2), Whitefield (Oct. 7) and Walton-Verona (Oct. 9)- all games are on the road.

The Cats will then play in their first-ever post-season soccer tournament when they participate in the Region 8, District 16 tournament the week of Oct. 13.

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.