Hagans hits 100 in Burg win


Wheelersburg senior forward Max Hagans (2) scored his 100th career goal in the Pirates’ 4-2 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer victory over Minford on Tuesday night at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

WHEELERSBURG — There was no “Mad Max” on Tuesday night inside Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg.

There was only Max Hagans — kicking and screaming so to say — after each one of his three goals scored, as the Wheelersburg senior standout forward enjoyed arguably the most memorable night of his decorated Pirate career.

That’s because Hagans had a hat trick of goals, including the milestone 100th for his career to put the Pirates on the board, as Wheelersburg went up 4-1 just over halfway through the second half — en route to a 4-2 doubling up of visiting Minford in a key Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer tilt.

In fact, Hagans had goals 100 and 101 in a matter of two minutes and a dozen seconds — the first off a textbook low cross right in front of the net from sophomore Nick Sylvia, as Hagans hit the marker beyond Minford goalkeeper Kade Glockner into the lower-right 90.

Hagans had little time to celebrate, though, despite getting the congratulatory mob hugs from his Pirate teammates — including fellow senior captain Connor Estep.

Hagans hit for an unassisted tally 2:12 later at the 16:25 mark of the opening half, giving him his 101st career goal — and his 22nd on the season at the time.

The Pirates carried that 2-0 lead into halftime, answered a Minford corner-kick goal with a Sylvia direct-kick counter for a 3-1 advantage, and then Hagans had the helper from Estep on his third goal —with 17:45 remaining for Wheelersburg’s largest margin of the night.

Hagans, the Division III first-team all-Ohio striker who amassed 47 goals for his junior campaign, spoke about his career goal total turning triple digits.

“It’s amazing. The whole community and everybody behind me as well, but I couldn’t have done any of this without my team. I don’t score goals without people passing it to me and us playing as a team together,” said Hagans. “God gives me these abilities and I feel like I try to honor him with those. Without him, none of this would be possible.”

Wheelersburg senior forward Max Hagans (2) is greeted by Pirate teammates Connor Estep and Kayson Whitt (9) after he scored his 100th career goal in the Pirates’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match against visiting Minford.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

It actually took divine intervention for Hagans not score a third goal in the first half — as he clanged a rocket off the crossbar with 3:36 remaining, which could have made it 3-0 then.

Instead, the Pirates’ pressure on the Falcons only amped up, with his third goal for real to make it 4-1 — as Minford’s goal-scoring machine, junior Myles Montgomery, made it 4-2 with an unassisted score with only 3:40 to go.

Likely lost in the shuffle of Hagans’ special night was the magnitude of the match — as both squads were indeed undefeated, although Minford had the 1-1 SOC II tie at West on Aug. 24.

With the victory, the perfect Pirates are now 8-0-0 and 4-0-0 and atop the division, while the Falcons fell to 6-1-1 — and to 3-1-1 in the league.

The two teams shared the SOC II last season, Minford captured it two years ago, and Wheelersburg won three consecutive conference titles in 2018, 2019 and 2020 — the last of which Wheelersburg won the Division III Region 11 championship, when Hagans and Estep were only then freshmen.

The Pirates took a major step forward towards another title with Tuesday’s triumph.

“This (victory) is a big team accomplishment right now. We’re really jelling together and working on things and getting better each day,” said Hagans. “Starting off the season strong is good, but we have to keep improving every day. We can’t back down and have to keep going into every game with that aggression that we need in order to win.”

Wheelersburg head coach Jon Estep concurred.

The Pirates play host to South Webster on Tuesday night, as Wheelersburg rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to prevail 2-1 in the Jeep Country heat on Aug. 24.

The Pirates also travel to Northwest, and the rematch at Minford is the regular-season finale in a month.

“For us, we just have to continue to get better as we go. We don’t want to peak right now. We challenge our guys throughout the preseason and throughout the year to play in moments like these,” said Estep. “Our guys responded, but we also have some great leaders to be able to do that. That’s what we love right now.”

One of those leaders is Hagans, as his actual 100th goal was a thing of beauty — set up by Sylvia drawing Hagans’ defender off him near the net, and finding him on a left-to-right cross for the one-time point-blank rip.

Hagans was recognized over the stadium’s public address — his family celebrating the milestone in the bleachers behind Wheelersburg’s bench.

“That was very exciting obviously. I was a little nervous, didn’t know how the game was going to settle out. But Nick makes a great move, attracts a defender, plays me the ball, it was exciting,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do at first honestly. But couldn’t have done it without that pass.”

Then, before the Pirate faithful could even sit down, Hagans had his second goal — and a sudden 2-0 advantage.

“Last year, when we played them, we were always in trail mode. We got down at their place the first match 3-0. This is a game of momentum, and for us to come out and find Max’s feet and give him opportunities to have 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 situations, we feel good in those moments as we always have. And Max makes things happen,” said Coach Estep. “That supporting cast around him knows he can make things happen, and they do a great job of finding him and getting him opportunities. To get a fast start like that, we knew they were a little inexperienced with the defensive players they lost from last year. If we could get them on their heels early, we would be in a good spot.”

Naturally, it’s not in the least what the Falcons wanted.

“The goal for any team playing Wheelersburg is watching No. 2 (Hagans). The first goal, I was really disappointed because we went through the walk-thru and scouted that play to the ‘T’. The exact players in the exact spots, everything. We knew exactly the play that they were going to run,” said Minford coach Jacob Hackworth. “We put our defense out there, but we just had a breakdown. But credit to them, because those are two good players. Max (Hagans) and Nick (Sylvia) and probably as good as any in Southern Ohio, and they are on the same team. Slowing them down is tough. The momentum was going their way, but all I ask my team to do is to keep fighting.”

And the Falcons did fight back to a 2-1 deficit — on a well-executed corner-kick goal by Ethan Cordle off Ashton Reeder’s kick.

Minford freshman Ashton Reeder (5) maintains possession of the ball during the Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match against Wheelersburg on Tuesday night.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

That was with five-and-a-half second-half minutes elapsed, but Sylvia stopped Minford’s momentum —with a direct-kick goal only four minutes and 16 seconds later.

That DK was the result of a Falcon foul, and awarding of the opportunity to Sylvia.

“We started the second half off better, started to do what we wanted to do, and we got a goal. But then we give up the foul there, and that just deflated the game for us,” said Hackworth. “We were responding, were getting the momentum our way, but credit to Nick (Sylvia) for putting a really good shot on goal.”

Once again, at a two-goal edge of 3-1, the Pirates had seized momentum back — with only 30 minutes remaining.

Twelve-and-a-half minutes later, Hagans had his hat trick, his 23rd goal on the season, his 102nd for his career — and Wheelersburg with full control.

“Our message at halftime was that Minford was a prideful unit, a prideful program, and they weren’t going to quit. So for them to come back and get a goal, we knew that was bound to happen. But when we get opportunities inside or around the 18, we feel pretty good about what our front guys are capable of doing,” said Coach Estep. “Nick had an opportunity, saw a crease, played a nice free kick into the right side of the goal. Takes some special guys to be able to do that. Then Connor (Estep) playing balls to guys’ feet, like the second-half goal to Max, those opportunities are what we feel so strong about.”

Another opportunity to feel strong about you ask?

Hagans has a realistic chance to break Aaron Jolly’s career goals record at Wheelersburg.

Jolly finished his illustrious Pirate career with 117 tallies.

Hagans has eight more matches in the regular season, and a maximum of seven in the Division III postseason tournament.

He was asked about that possibility on Tuesday night, but said the Pirates playing winning soccer trumps all individual goals — including 100 for his career.

Wheelersburg senior forward Max Hagans (2) had a hat trick of goals in the Pirates’ 4-2 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer victory over Minford on Tuesday night at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

“People have mentioned it to me, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it. But for me, I am just taking it one game a time. First priority is getting the win. I didn’t care if I scored, I wanted our team to win. That’s the biggest thing,” said Hagans. “If I have to score in order for us to win, I am more than happy to do that. That’s the main goal.“

* * *

Minford 0 2 — 2

Wheelersburg 2 2 — 4

W — Max Hagans (Nick Sylvia assist), 18:37, 1st (1-0 W)

W — Max Hagans (unassisted), 16:25, 1st (2-0 W)

M — Ethan Cordle (Ashton Reeder assist), 34:28, 2nd (2-1 W)

W — Nick Sylvia (direct kick), 30:12, 2nd (3-1 W)

W Max Hagans (Connor Estep assist), 17:45, 2nd (4-1 W)

M — Myles Montgomery (unassisted), 3:40, 2nd (4-2 W)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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