Logan Price grimaced and grabbed his right hamstring on Monday night. He'll happily deal with the pain -- it was incurred in a joyful manner after yet another dramatic finish in a Boyd County-East Carter boys soccer series full of them.

"To be honest with you, I ran about a 4.2 from there to there," the Lions' coach deadpanned, pointing first at his spot on the sideline and then somewhere in front of the goal Grant Chaffin had just knocked a game-winner into, "and then I realized what I needed to be doing and I pulled it up."

The Lions and Raiders were less than two minutes away from win-or-go-home kicks from the mark for the third time in five years in a 16th Region Tournament semifinal showdown on Monday night when Chaffin, lingering near the right post, booted JB Terrill's ball into the net.

 

Boyd County won, 2-1, at Rowan County's Paul Ousley Stadium to advance to Wednesday's region tournament final for the first time in three years.

"I just saw JB trying to make a cross or a shot and just saw it right there," Chaffin said of the ball at his feet. "Just feels like a dream, being able to be back in the region finals once again."

The Lions (17-2) didn't even have to go to penalty kicks to do it, although Price has shifted his philosophy on preparation for that situation.

"For the first time in my entire career, we have practiced penalty kicks for the past week and a half," Price said, "because I didn't want to get caught in a situation again (having not done so). It's not that we weren't prepared, but I wanted it to be a little more serious as far as practice goes. We put a little pressure on them in practice."

East Carter (10-7-2) put some pressure on the Lions, too, on Monday. The Raiders' Austin Fruth opened the scoring in the eighth minute, chasing down Christian Winter's perfectly executed leading pass and converting.

"It was something new for us, for a while," Chaffin said of an early Boyd County deficit. "Just trying to build the momentum and the confidence back up and knowing we just gotta keep our heads up and keep going full force."

Terrill tallied in the 21st minute to tie the game, and it stayed that way for 68 minutes.

"We talk a lot about life on this team, and I know it's so cliche for a coach to say something along the lines of, 'You're gonna get knocked down; it just depends how you respond,'" Price said, "but I look out there and I see Rylan (Keelin) and Cole (Sexton) and we're calming everyone down. You need leaders like that."

East Carter and Boyd County met in the region tournament for the sixth consecutive season, with the Raiders winning four of the previous five. Of those encounters, two have gone to PKs, two more to overtime and another was decided by one goal.

It was most of the youthful Raiders' introduction to the white-knuckle postseason rivalry. But East Carter still looked like East Carter, with senior Anthony Manzoni -- whom Price good-naturedly referred to as "the fuzzy-headed guy," an allusion to Manzoni's long and wavy hair -- and company disrupting the Lions' possession game.

So Boyd County opened up an attack mindset, Price said, but first-year Raiders keeper Breck Sargent made one sensational save after another.

Sargent swatted a Chaffin corner kick out of danger in the 53rd minute, slapped Maverick Boyd's shot off a free kick just over the crossbar in the 57th minute, batted a ball to himself and put it away in the 63rd and made two more stops in the 74th and 78th minutes.

"Breck showed up," East Carter coach Quinn Huddle said. "I could see it on the bus. He was ready to go, and he was locked in all night. That's what good players do and he's a good player. He came through for us.

"It's unfortunate that good performances can be overshadowed by a loss, but this is something that we're gonna build on, and we're gonna keep comin'."

So did the Lions. Their strategy of unrelenting pressure worked when Terrill got loose in the 89th minute and set up Chaffin's game-winner.

"You never know what can happen," Price said. "It was about time the ball bounced right for Boyd County for once."

Huddle noted a similar phenomenon from its opposite side.

"We had a few players think they could get to it, and (Chaffin) got there first," Huddle said. "It's just part of the game. Through the years ... we've had some breaks go our way, some last-minute goals. That's sports. We gotta keep our head high.

"It's never fun to have your season end, but I say with confidence they gave everything they had and I don't think we could've asked for anything more."

Entering Monday's game, counting all 18 meetings over the last nine years, the series was as even as it gets -- six wins for each side and six draws.

Boyd County meets Rowan County, which dispatched Ashland 6-2 later Monday night, in the region tournament final on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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zklemme@dailyindependent.com