WAVERLY — A penalty kick shootout was required to decide Wednesday’s hard-fought Division III district semifinal boys soccer game between Valley and Ironton St. Joe.
After 110 minutes of complete game time — 80 minutes in regulation and 30 minutes of sudden-death overtime — the Indians and Flyers found themselves in a 3-3 tie.
The Flyers won the shootout 3-2 — earning their spot in Saturday’s district championship versus Wheelersburg.
The Indians rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, as they scored three consecutive goals to take a 3-2 lead when senior Colt Buckle scored 28:53 to play in the second half.
“Getting down 2-0 early is never a great way to start off a game, especially a big game. After St. Joe’s 2nd goal, we had two options of rolling over and dying or fighting back and finding a way. And it just is not in our kid’s blood to give up,” Valley coach Jacob Perry said, after the game. “Hats off to our guys and girls for never dropping their heads. I had faith in them the entire time that they weren’t going to stop fighting until the last whistle.”
With their season on the line in the cold October conditions, both sides made sure to leave it all out on the field. So much so that numerous players suffered from leg cramps.
Ironton St. Joe’s Zachary Johnson tied the game at 3-3 with 4:56 in regulation, which ultimately set up the sudden-death overtimes and later the shootout.
It was Johnson’s third goal of the game after scoring the first two in a three-minute span in the first half.
“Zach is a great player who uses his body well to put himself in goal-scoring opportunities. We knew coming into the game that if they were going to score, it was going to go through him,” Perry said. “Early on, we had a couple of mistakes that allowed him to have more space than we would like and he made us pay for it.”
Valley goal keeper Chris Queen collected 12 saves on 15 Flyers shots on goal during the contest, while ISJ’s Evan Balestra had 16 saves on 19 Indian shots on goal.
“When we’ve had lapses in defense this year, Chris Queen has been our saving grace. Chris has been making great saves all year long. And that is a direct reflection of the work him and our keepers have put in to become as good as they are,” Perry said. “Chris showed up big for us last night by not only saving goals, but providing energy when we needed it. Big saves provide big energy to a team.”
Valley’s Jaylen Bender gave the Indians their first goal with 15 minutes remaining in the first half on an assist by Buckle.
Jr Holbrook tied the game with his goal shortly after halftime — a score that was assisted by senior Hunter Edwards with 37:36 left in the second half.
In the PK shootout, the Flyers received goals from Landon Rowe, Johnson, and Bryson Burcham.
MJ Basham and Lucie Ashkettle found the back of the net for Valley in the shootout, but Jaylen Bender’s shot on their fifth attempt was saved by Balestra which sealed ISJ’s narrow victory.
It was the third meeting between the Indians and Flyers this season with both prior meetings going Valley’s way by a goal (5-4 on Sept. 15 and 2-1 on Sept. 29).
“Our kids came into the game excited to play in the elements. During warmups, they seemed kind of excited to be able to battle it out with the weather the way it was,” Perry said. “Neither team could’ve expected the number of cramps we had, but that comes with playing in the cold. They were doing all they could to not let each other down and fight through nagging injuries. That goes to show the heart that both teams played with last night.”
Valley will graduate 10 seniors from their SOC championship team this year, including Edwards, Ashkettle, Queen, Buckle, and Basham.
As an alumnus of the program himself, Perry commended this group for their hard work and dedication to Indian soccer during their time as players.
“Man, this senior class. I can’t say enough about them. These are the hardest working 10 players I have been around. Day in and day out these young men and women showed up to work. They accepted every challenge me and my coaches ever through at them,” Perry said. “These kids fully bought into what we’re trying to sell them. Not only are they great players, but they are just as good of people. From volunteering outside of soccer at community events to helping out with our youth program, their influence and legacy on Valley Soccer will live on for a very long time. Last night was not the storybook ending we would’ve hoped for, but our team handled it as best as they could have. They have given a new identity to Valley Soccer and have set the precedent for all future Indians to follow. I can’t thank them enough for the effort, hard work, and dedication to me, this program and our community.”
Ironton St. Joe will face Wheelersburg in a Division III district championship on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Jackson’s Alumni Field. First touch is set for 11 a.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved