GRAYSON, Ky. — To pursue a passion, one must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make waves in the field of his or her choice.
With East Carter (Ky.) graduate Garrett Halstead, there’s no question that he’s willing to lay it all on the line, regardless of the type of pitch he’s playing on.
The talented offensive player, who led the Raiders to their best postseason showing in the history of its program, will join the Shawnee State men’s soccer program for the 2020 season on forward.
He’ll look to replicate the success that he helped build at East Carter, which went 35-7-3 in Halstead’s two seasons there.
“A lot of high school kids don’t have the opportunity to play at the next level,” Halstead said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to play and am thankful for (Ron) Goodson, the entire Shawnee State men’s soccer program and Shawnee State University for giving me the chance to play. From a very young age, I wanted to continue my career and take it as far as I could. This is the next step. I’ve been very fortunate. It’s a great opportunity that not everybody gets to have, and I certainly won’t waste it.”
After scoring three goals and notching five assists as a sophomore for Greenup County in 2017, Halstead transferred to East Carter for his junior season — and began building on his successes for the two-time defending Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) 16th Region champions at the time.
He scored three goals in just three games after becoming eligible during postseason competition following the transfer.
East Carter lost in the 16th Region Championship Game to Boyd County in Halstead’s junior season as it finished 16-3-2, but as a senior, the Raiders retook their place as the 16th Region’s elite program.
The Raiders started the season 9-0 and began their postseason tear by blitzkrieging their opponents by a 32-5 scoring margin to collect their third 16th Region Championship in four seasons, and Halstead’s first with the program, in 2019.
However, Halstead and Co. had greater postseason aspirations.
The senior helped East Carter post a shutout of South Laurel in the KHSAA Sweet 16, then led the Raiders to their biggest victory in program history.
East Carter — in a grueling battle that took double overtime and every last second, literally, of the 110 minutes played of its matchup in the KHSAA Quarterfinals against Prestonsburg — collected a 2-1 victory as Ethan Miller finished a high blast to the top left corner of the net as time expired.
With the win, East Carter became the first boys team from the 16th Region to advance to the state semifinals since Ashland in 2004, and made its opponent in the state semifinals — Daviess County — earn it by taking the Panthers to double overtime before falling by a 3-2 count.
Halstead assisted on a Miller finish in the 78th minute to tie the score at two apiece, sending the game to extra sessions before Daviess County scored the winner late in the second overtime.
“We knew coming in that we had a chance to go somewhere that an East Carter team had never been,” Halstead said of the Raiders’ run to the KHSAA State Semifinals and their 19-4-1 record. “We worked our tails off during the offseason and we came together as a group. During the preseason, we had a few rough outings, but as the season progressed, we really picked up steam and became more familiar with each other on the field. It was definitely a great season for us as a team, and one where I felt that I grew as an individual.”
The Raiders’ ability to advance to the state semis largely came about due to Halstead’s improvement, as the senior finished his final year in an East Carter uniform with 11 goals and a team-leading 14 assists for 36 points on the campaign.
He was named as an Ashland Daily Independent All-Area selection twice — once with Greenup County following his sophomore season and his final season with East Carter last fall.
However, he credits the way his career finished to guys like Miller (42 goals, eight assists), Trevor Cline (101 saves), Logan Cales, Shawn Greenhill, Treven Tussey and Michael Primm among others for their competitive nature.
“It was a great experience being around those guys,” Halstead said. “They had the same goals that I had in mind. We all wanted to win every game that we played and we wanted to win a regional championship again. We really enjoyed being around each other at practice, played to the best of our abilities, and had a lot of trust in each other. I truly believe we had more trust in each other’s abilities than any other team in our district and region had.”
Along with his teammates, Halstead greatly enjoyed playing for Chris Huddle — as well as Chris’ son, Quinn Huddle.
Chris, who won three 16th Region championships and accumulated four 16th Region finals appearances and four 62nd District championships in his four seasons as the head coach at East Carter, posted a 61-24-6 record at the helm of the ship.
He will give the program to his son for the 2020 season on forward.
“They’re around the game all the time,” Halstead said of the Huddle family. “They’re tough on you when they need to be, but they also make sure that they’re telling you when you’re doing good. That is important to have from coaches. They have a good coaching balance and have good IQs about the game, and that’s what’s helped make the program so successful.”
With the younger Huddle, Halstead — as part of Kentucky’s Olympic Development Program — has been able to develop his game due to the competition that he’s played against.
Thanks to that experience, Halstead has already played against competition from Germany, the Netherlands, England and Wales — and that’s prior to his freshman season of college.
“I got to play with a bunch of guys who were really dedicated to the sport,” Halstead said. “When you go overseas to play soccer, you can point out how much it means to people very quickly. It’s a lot of people’s lives. Here, you come to a city and you see a bunch of basketball hoops around, but in countries overseas, you see soccer fields, soccer courts, goals up everywhere and kids playing on the street. You can really feel that vibe, that passion for the game. Soccer is the culture.”
For Halstead, Shawnee State’s always been an appealing option due to not only growing up in Greenup County, but also because of Ron Goodson’s experience within the game of soccer.
Goodson will be entering his 22nd season at SSU this fall, and is the longest tenured coach in the Shawnee State Athletic Department.
“Shawnee State’s always been close to me,” Halstead said. “I used to go to games at SSU all the time when I was in middle school, and just watch. I knew a few players on the team then. I knew that Coach Goodson was a good player and a coach. Playing overseas in Germany and playing at Rio Grande and Shawnee State before that says a lot about his skill level. I was certainly familiar with it growing up here.”
With his vast experiences already, Halstead’s also familiar with the amount of work it takes — as well as what it will take at the collegiate level — in order to be a successful player at the next level.
He’s looking forward to working toward a bachelor’s degree in marketing while contributing to the overall team aspect in any way that he can.
“Academically, my goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree,” Halstead said. “Athletically, I want to step in and give my best to the team, whether it be in practice or on the field. I’m going to give it 110-percent, wherever it may be and regardless of the scenario.”
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