JACKSON — Once the Wheelersburg Pirates broke into the scoring column, the goals kept on coming.
The Pirates (16-1-2) earned a 7-0 victory over Ironton St. Joe (14-5-1) at Jackson’s Alumni Stadium — claiming a Division III district championship for the third-straight year.
“These seniors that were apart of that team in 2019, one of the things we talked about is when we get to that point, we’ve got to change our mindset. Change how we approach championship games,” Wheelersburg coach Jon Estep said, following the win. “We’re very fortunate to have that game on Wednesday to get us going, and I think that carried over to today. Anytime you’re playing in November in this sport, you’re having a great season and tournament run and that’s where we’re at right now.”
The shutout win — which moves the Pirates back into the Region 11 semifinals — is ‘Burg’s 12th of the season in 19 games.
Pirates junior Max Hagans had himself a district tournament worth remembering. He scored four goals in the district final — including ‘Burg’s first three and later their sixth goal — after having a hat trick in the district semis.
Hagans’ four-goal performance in the district championship improved his single-season goal total to 47 — four off of Wheelersburg alum Dillan Lewis who has the program’s all-time record (51).
“We were really trying to sharpen up the little things,” Hagans said. “Our outside-mids making sure they got it up the field, making sure we capitalized and we did that. I thought we played really well, our passing was on point and that was something we wanted to get down.”
Freshman Nick Sylvia scored the Pirates other three goals — bringing his total this season to 42.
Combined heading into the Region 11 tournament, Sylvia and Hagans have combined for 99 of their 125 goals and have been a stellar one-two punch, as Estep put it.
“We feel that those two are a great one-two punch. Throughout the year, it’s been that way and it’s hard for teams to focus on just one. If teams do that, the other can hurt you just as bad. We haven’t had a combination like that, we’ve always had one that can change a game,” Estep said, of Hagans and Sylvia. “And they’re unselfish too, playing it to each other, giving their teammates like Connor and Jackson opportunities outside the 18. Anytime Connor has a shot from outside the 20 he can score it from there, Jackson did a nice job of setting Max and Nick up when they weren’t creating for each other.”
Wheelersburg will face the winner of the Jackson No. 2 district — the Minford Falcons — in an all-SOC II Region 11 semifinal at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field.
‘Burg and Minford tied in their first meeting of the season — 4-4 on Sept. 13 — while the Falcons earned a 2-1 road win in their regular season finale matchup.
First touch between the Pirates and Falcons is set for 6 p.m. with a spot in the Region 11 final on the line.
“Knowing that someone from our district is going to go to the regional finals. We’ve seen both these teams twice, we’ve had a little bit more luck with Northwest than Minford — but both games with Minford have been a dog fight,” Estep said. “We expect nothing less with whoever comes out of this game. We’re excited that no matter what, someone from our SOC II is going to play someone from the Central district in the Regional final.”
“We’ve got to stay healthy, keep working on those little things,” Hagans said. “Get our passing down, making sure we get up and down the field. If we do that, I like our chances to make a deep run.”
Ironton St. Joe 0 0 — 0
Wheelersburg 2 5 — 7
W — Max Hagans, 32:50 1H
W — Max Hagans, 18:27 1H
W — Max Hagans, 37:41 2H
W — Nick Sylvia, 31:38 2H
W — Nick Sylvia, 29:30 2H
W — Max Hagans, 28:50 2H
W — Nick Sylvia (assist by Max Hagans), 15:00 2H
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