By the time the match between the Minford Falcons and Wheelersburg Pirates got underway Tuesday night, the temperature was starting to cool off on the turf field at Ed Miller Stadium. However, the competition between Minford and Wheelersburg was hotly contested.
The two schools played to a 1-1 tie on Sept. 1. The players and coaches knew that this match was going to be a tough one to win, but when it was all said and done the Falcons found a way to finish with a 2-1 win.
“These are two teams that played evenly the first time at their place, we knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in here tonight just like it every conference game is,” Wheelersburg head coach Jon Estep said.
Both teams squandered several early opportunities to put their schools out in front, but Wheelersburg eventually lit up the scoreboard with nine minutes to play in the first half.
Freshman Aaron Jolly used his speed to create a chance at scoring, and made the most of an opening when he found Niklas Lehner for a Wheelersburg goal and a 1-0 lead.
The score from the Pirates was the only one surrendered by Minford on the day. Gampp described his team’s defensive effort after the game, saying:
“We never let that easy possession again go. We always contained it to the outside any time they had a cross, and it never got to one of their player’s feet. Our players were always stepping in front and getting it out, and that’s what you’ve got to do defensively.”
Gampp added that “we played a very tough team … we went down one goal to start, and never gave up.”
Minford didn’t wait long to tie things up. The Falcons answered in response to the prior Pirates goal with a score of their own just a minute later. With eight minutes to play in the first half, both teams were tied at one apiece.
The Falcons played a fast paced offensive style at first in the second half, looking to take the lead for the first time in the match. Minford came up just short when a shot from sophomore Brayden Davis went wide right at the 29 minute mark.
Senior Brian Patrick had another shot at scoring five minutes later with 24 minutes to play in the match, but also missed off to the right.
Patrick would make up for his misfire, though. The senior scored with exactly 23 minutes left to play, on a shot that was deflected when it left his foot and altered just enough to sneak by Wheelersburg’s goalkeeper.
“Games like this, little things like that could be the difference and tonight it was,” Estep said about the Patrick goal.
Wheelersburg had several chances to tie the game, but fell short. Sophomore Brice Robnett had a couple shots miss just wide left, coming inches from tying the game for the Pirates.
“We had opportunities throughout the second half to tie it up and possibly take the lead,” Estep said.
Gampp was happy with the final result for the Falcons.
“Great win,” Gampp said. “Lot of heart, lot of heart. Seniors really stepped it up, they knew it was their last time playing on this field.”
There were plenty of compliments to go around for the Falcons’ performance. “I love my team,” Gampp said. “I’m blessed to have the team that I have and the way they play. It’s just a joy to coach them the way we play soccer.”
The result was huge for Minford in terms of conference standings. “Any time you get an SOC win, it gets yourself up,” Gampp said. “It gets us probably up there solidly in second place right now, we’ve got to have help to be able to win the SOC, but I’m proud of my kids.”
Wheelersburg will put the loss behind them, as the Pirates have several pivotal matches coming up soon.
“We have a big week coming up next week conference wise with Northwest and Waverly,” Estep said. “We’ve got St. Joe coming in here on Saturday, so we’ve got a few days to get back to work, get rested up, and get ready to make our push for a tournament run.”
Estep added that his Pirates have a chance to “make some noise” in conference play next week.
Minford will play host to Portsmouth West on Thursday evening.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT