SOUTH WEBSTER — Once the Wheelersburg Pirates get a goal, and once they get going with a furious fury, they are almost an impossible train to slam the breaks upon.
For the second time this season and unfortunately for them, the South Webster Jeeps found that out.
That’s because, on Tuesday evening in sunsplashed Jeep Country, Wheelersburg scored an early first-half goal —then opened the floodgates for three second-half tallies in a matter of only 10 minutes, as the undefeated Pirates posted five goals on the Jeeps for the second time this soccer campaign.
The end result this time was a 5-0 shutout in a tidy 90 minutes—following Wheelersburg’s 5-1 home win over South Webster on Aug. 25.
That’s correct, Wheelersburg was even one better this second time around in the double round-robin Southern Ohio Conference Division II —as the division-leading Pirates, now 6-0-1, are 5-0-1 in the league.
Their only non-conference contest was an 11-0 rout of Fairland from Saturday, as the only tie on the slate was last week’s 4-4 shootout at Minford —which remains one full game behind the Pirates in the SOC II race.
That is due to South Webster’s 1-0 win at Minford, which hosts Northwest for a crucial conference affair on Thursday night.
Northwest won at South Webster 1-0, as the Jeeps’ league championship hopes took a devastating hit on Tuesday — as South Webster fell to 3-3-0, and 6-4-1 overall.
As the SOC II is a four-horse race, the Pirates —per the on-pitch results —have been the best club.
Against South Webster, they did not allow a shot on goal —while taking 10 themselves and hitting all five on target.
The only Pirate negative on Tuesday was senior goalkeeper Jeremiah Stratton suffering an apparent hip injury —which required him to come out of the match with only 70 seconds remaining.
He was replaced by fellow senior Jackson Schwamburger, but by then, the outcome was long already in the Pirates’ bag.
The Pirates’ only goal in the final 28 minutes was Nick Sylvia’s second —as he nicely headed it in with only 8:12 to play, off a headed pass from Connor Estep following a corner kick.
Estep’s father, Jon, is the veteran head coach —and was pleased with his Pirates’ performance once again.
Estep emphasized the start of each half, as an unassisted marker for Ethan Hochstetler put the Pirates on the board only eight-and-a-half minutes in.
“The message we sent to the guys was the first 15 minutes of the game was going to be crucial. We knew the type of match we had with them the first time, and we knew they would be even better prepared for us this time. To get that goal early in the first 15 minutes, it allowed our guys to settle in and defensively, we held strong there in the first half,” said the coach. “Coming out of halftime, it was the first 10 minutes of the second half. We wanted to hopefully get one in early again, and we felt if we got one in before them, we would be in a good situation.”
Right on cue, the Pirates did just that.
Sylvia scored his first of the match only a minute and two tics in —as Wheelersburg standout forward Max Hagans had the assist.
It was eerily similar to the first meeting, in which Wheelersburg broke a 1-1 halftime only two minutes into the second half —and Sylvia scored the go-ahead goal.
Now leading 2-0 on Tuesday, and for the second time against the Jeeps this season, Hagans had South Webster wrapped proverbially around his foot.
In the initial matchup, Hagans’ hat trick of goals spanned only 23 minutes —as he hit the Jeeps for a pair of penalty-kick counters and an unassisted point.
This time, taking a distant direct kick from well enough outside the goalbox, Hagans blasted it and it hit the crossbar above Jeep keeper Jaren Lower’s head.
As Lower lunged high to reach for the stop, the ball bounced straight downward off the crossbar, but first took an ominous bounce off the Bermuda pitch — before hitting Lower square in the back and trickling into the twine.
South Webster was stunned while Wheelersburg was elated, and the Pirates now had a commanding 3-0 advantage with 29:46 remaining.
“That was one heckuva of a shot right there,” raved Coach Estep. “Max told one of our coaches that he was going to go for that upper corner, but we got a great bounce. Jaren (Lower) made a good effort, it hits the crossbar, comes straight down, hits him on his back and goes in.”
But Hagans wasn’t done.
Only 48 seconds later to be precise, the Jeeps were whistled for a handball in the box.
Hagans took the penalty-kick attempt, and converted for the 4-0 lead with 29 minutes remaining.
“Max has been very solid on those PKs all year,” said Estep. “Gave us a nice cushion by that point.”
SWHS head coach Corey Claxon said he didn’t foresee a second consecutive four-goal second-half deficit to the Pirates.
In addition, the Jeeps had an apparent first-half goal get negated for offsides.
Some of it was Wheelersburg, and some of it was poor Jeep luck, Claxon explained.
“I didn’t see this game going this way tonight at all. I believe we had lots of moments where we did some good things, but the most important areas of the field (near the goals) was where we obviously lost it. Two of the goals were from crosses that we didn’t stick with our marks. I think the PK and free kick were unlucky on our part, but we didn’t score tonight either. The one goal that was called back for being offsides would have been nice to have, but that’s the way it went,” he said. “We still have a good bit of the season left, so we will keep moving forward and see what we can do.”
What Wheelersburg did on Tuesday was win in Jeep Country, put up another five goals, and remain above the fray that is the mad-scramble SOC II.
“It’s a solid win for sure on the road,” said Estep. “Coming off that 4-4 tie at Minford in which we gave up two goals in the first five minutes, defense was our focal point the last few days. This was a big step starting the second half of the league. A lot of good teams and a lot can happen, so hopefully we can get into a rhythm and keep it going.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 1 4 —5
South Webster 0 0 —0
W — Ethan Hochstetler (unassisted), 31:36, 1st (1-0 W)
W — Nick Sylvia (Max Hagans assist), 38:58, 2nd (2-0 W)
W — Max Hagans (direct kick), 29:46, 2nd (3-0 W)
W — Max Hagans (penalty kick), 28:58, 2nd (4-0 W)
W — Nick Sylvia (Connor Estep assist), 8:12, 2nd (5-0 W)
SHOTS — Wheelersburg 10 (5 on goal), South Webster 8 (0 on goal)
SAVES — Wheelersburg 0 (Jeremiah Stratton), South Webster 0 (Jaren Lower)
CORNER KICKS — Wheelersburg 6, South Webster 4
FOULS — Wheelersburg 5, South Webster 1