Falcons clip Warren, win sectional



Minford senior Carson Cronin (31) crosses a pass during the Falcons’ Division II boys soccer sectional championship match against Warren on Wednesday night at Minford High School.

Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

MINFORD — For the Minford High School boys soccer squad, this particular hunt for a Red October —despite the Falcons’ bump-up to Division II —has been quite successful.

In the past month, their only non-wins are a 3-3 tie against South Webster, and a narrow 3-2 loss against Athens of Division II — which arguably they could’ve, would’ve, and even should’ve, won.

In the final week of the regular season, the Falcons doubled Division II and host Jackson 4-2 —then dealt albeit a banged up but still previously-undefeated Wheelersburg club a 5-0 shutout.

On Wednesday night, inside the Falcons’ Nest at the Minford High School Soccer Complex, Minford muscled its way for a third consecutive sectional championship —scoring goals at or near the halfway point of each half, and fending off the visiting Warren Warriors with a count of 2-1.

Under the direction of third-year head coach Jacob Hackworth, the eighth-seeded Falcons raised their record to 13-3-2 —and ended ninth-seeded Warren’s season at 6-11-1.

More importantly, their 16th sectional title in program history is the Falcons’ first for the Division II tournament —as Minford moved up from Division III by a single solitary male in the Ohio High School Athletic Association count.

The Falcons, along with two other programs with a boys soccer enrollment of 182, are the smallest Division II teams in the entire state.

But bigger can be better sometimes, and the Falcons —playing a Division II disrespect card, trumped the Warriors.

“The narrative amongst the team, the local sports media was we got disrespected with our seed and felt that way with the voting. But we had to make the best of it, take it one game at a time. I told our kids not to look ahead because Warren is a good team,” said Hackworth. “A Division II sectional is definitely harder to win, but we’re proud of it and we hope to keep going as far as we can.”

The Falcons maintained most of the possession, played the majority of the match in their offensive half and even third, outshot the Warriors 20-8 as both teams committed five fouls, seized serious advantage of a yellow card handed out to Warren junior goalkeeper Hayden Wells, and withstood the final 82 seconds as the Warriors went for the equalizer.

In all honestly, it could’ve, would’ve and should’ve been 2-0 — or even 3-0 — Falcons at halftime, because of Minford’s 11 first-half shots, at least three hit either the crossbar or post.

“I felt like we definitely dominated the possession for most of the game and limited their shots. It very easily could have went 2-0 or 3-0 at halftime. But that’s part of the game,” said Hackworth. “Every team has those moments where the ball just doesn’t go in the net. Fortunately, we got two and they got one.”

Indeed, if the opposition can’t score, all it takes is one goal —even though Minford’s second-half marker made it 2-0, a decisive difference especially with 23-and-a-half minutes remaining.

Remember, regular-season matches can end in ties, but in tournament play, you play it out through one OR two sudden-death overtimes —and even one or more shootouts.

The Falcons were a minute and 22 seconds away from a shutout, but Chad Lang landed Warren’s goal —suddenly making it 2-1.

But the Warriors were never able to mount another serious rush, as senior Carson Cronin’s clear-away kick with 25 tics to play pretty much sealed the sectional championship.

And, as they say, defense does win those.

“The last few matches, our defense has really stepped up and played extremely well, winning balls out of the air,” said Hackworth. “I think there at the end, we got a little lackadaisical as a team, the midfield didn’t recover and they got a late goal. But overall, super proud of our defense and our midfield.”

The Falcons finally broke through at the midway juncture of the opening half —as Alex Reeder crossed a pass to fellow junior Myles Montgomery, who nicely headed in the orb beyond Wells and into the upper-left 90.

Minford junior Myles Montgomery (10) scored the Falcons’ first goal on Wednesday night in the team’s 2-1 Division II boys soccer sectional championship victory over visiting Warren.

Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

For the decorated and speedy and athletically-gifted Montgomery, that was his 55th career goal —going along with 34 career assists.

To Hackworth, it was textbook passing by his Falcons from back to front for the point.

Minford junior Alex Reeder (9) maintains possession of the ball against Warren junior Bailey Bowers (10) during Wednesday night’s Division II boys soccer sectional championship match at Minford.

Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

“The first goal we were able to get was a four or five-pass string, great early cross by Alex (Reeder) and a great header by Myles (Montgomery). One of the prettier goals you’ll see all year,” said the coach. “Alex played a good cross and Myles is always in the right spot. Super proud of the goal because it was a team goal we built from the back all the way up. That’s the way we’re supposed to play and that’s what I like to see as a coach.”

What Hackworth also enjoyed seeing was a 2-0 Minford advantage with 23-and-a-half minutes to go.

This goal involved Montgomery again, who beat Wells with a point-blank shot on the right side of the goal, but Wells fouled Montgomery in the goalbox.

Wells received a yellow card for the foul, and by rule, he had to exit the pitch —forcing freshman Jonah Hollis having to enter off the bench to defend the penalty kick.

Sam Tieman, one of Minford’s senior co-captains, took the PK —and drilled it into the lower-left 90.

In the end, it was ultimately the differencemaker.

Hackworth explained the passing began back to front for a second time.

“That was another goal that started at the midfield. An outside back to a center mid to an outside mid to a striker. Great passing, Myles beats the keeper and the keeper takes him down in the box. It’s one of those you get nervous as a coach, because a tap-in goal there is a guaranteed goal, but they called a foul and a penalty kick, and a PK is a 50-50 chance,” he said. “But senior Sam Tieman stepped up and knocked it down for us and it proved to be the game-winning goal.”

A game-winning goal, and a sectional title clinching counter —this one for a Division II tilt.

The Falcons will return to action on Tuesday —in a Division II Southeast District semifinal against top-seeded Marietta.

The 14-1-2 Tigers are a large Division II program —with their only loss this season at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (3-1) on August 31.

In late September, the Tigers tied back-to-back both Wheeling Park (2-2) and Logan (1-1) —as Marietta’s most recent trip to Logan was in fact that 1-1 tie.

That’s where Tuesday’s semifinal takes place —as Logan Chieftain Stadium is the site for the 6 p.m. first touch.

For the Falcons, Warren recently played its archrival Tigers to a 1-0 loss —so that might mean Minford isn’t an overwhelming underdog like some observers may believe.

Hackworth said his charges will give it everything they have against the favored Tigers —with the goal of playing for a third consecutive district championship.

“It’s a big task, but hopefully we’ll be up for it,” he said. “Marietta is historically good, they flirt with that Division I-II cutoff line (for postseason tournament division), so they are a much bigger school. We’re the smallest in D-II right now and they are in the upper-third of D-II. It’s a David versus Goliath if you want to call it, but we don’t know a ton about them and they don’t know a ton about us. Hopefully, our kids will give a lot of effort and we can pull off another winning result.”

* * *

Warren 0 1 —1

Minford 1 1 —2

M — Myles Montgomery (Alex Reeder assist), 19:52, 1st (1-0 M)

M — Sam Tieman (penalty kick), 23:30, 2nd (2-0 M)

W — Chad Lang (unassisted), 1:22, 2nd (2-1 M)

SHOTS —Warren 8, Minford 20

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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