LUMLEY

Hunter Lumley works his way through Morgan County defenders Friday (March 13) in Jackson County's 1-0 loss. 

Jackson County boys’ soccer players plan to voluntarily remain busy during an extended layoff as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Coach Jason Guzzardo said players took some equipment with them Friday (March 13) after a 1-0 defeat to Morgan County to do player-led workouts. Coaches cannot direct any form of practice as schools and sports shut down in response to the public health crisis. Schools will be closed until the end of March, meaning no sports during that period either.

“We’ve really preached all year, and even last year, as we change the culture, we want a player-led team,” Guzzardo said. “Here’s a situation where you face some adversity. If you have a player-led team, this is why it’s important.”

Guzzardo said he and the team talked about not playing for a while past the Morgan County game, though they hold hope that their season will eventually resume.

“We addressed it in our team meeting before we even went out (to play),” he said. “We wanted to kind of get out in front of it. We told them we don’t know what the future holds.”

But Guzzardo said “we’re going to be optimistic” to complete a season that holds potential.

“This group really feels like they can capture nine or 10 wins for a school record,” he said.

As for the game against Morgan County, the Panthers (6-5, 0-1 Region 8-AAA) gave up a goal four minutes into the second half in its loss in region play.

“We had a great game plan,” Guzzardo said. “We struggled executing our game plan a little bit in the first half — made some adjustments in the second half.”

A handball called on Jackson County in the box early in the second half led to Morgan County converting a penalty kick for the game’s only score. Guzzardo called the handball call “questionable.”

“It’s one of those that’s just part of the game,” Guzzardo said.

The coach said his team “did a good job” of taking Morgan County out of its game plan for the final 30 minutes, but Jackson County couldn’t equalize.

“We just couldn’t break through,” Guzzardo said. “They got a solid, solid defense … It was definitely a tight game (between) two of what I believe are top teams in the state — two top-10 teams in the state.

“We’re close. We’re just really hoping we can come back and finish this thing.”

Now, the Panthers play the waiting game. Guzzardo said there’s discussions in the region to address how the rest of the 8-AAA schedule should be handled if the season resumes.

“It’s really going to depend on whether or not we go back to school in two weeks,” he said. “You want to put in the work, but you don’t want to overdo it because you don’t want to get your hopes up too much.”

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