The Wheelersburg boys soccer team was able to put on a show for the fans at Ed Miller Stadium on Thursday night against Waverly, defeating the Tigers 4-1.
It was senior night for the team, as the Pirates honored three seniors on this season’s roster. Dylan Burton, Nathan McLaughlin and Hunter Phipps were recognized before the game in front of the home crowd.
The celebration was a stark contrast to year’s past. Wheelersburg had graduated 18 seniors in the past two years according to head coach Jon Estep, and graduate only three seniors this season.
The trio of seniors on the team this year have had to overcome a lot of challenges in their careers.
“This year, I think they heard all the talk that we were losing everybody that we lost last year, that we weren’t going to be much this year,” Estep said. “They set out back in the spring to prove people wrong, and I think they’re happy with the way we’ve played at times this year and they will continue to strive to finish off their career like they want to and make a nice tournament run.”
Wheelersburg entered the match also looking to avenge a 2-1 loss to Waverly in September, and came ready to play with a renewed energy to help propel them to get a win.
“I saw a lot of energy, something we haven’t had over the last couple games,” Estep said. “I think a little energy from senior night tonight and our three seniors having their last home game during the regular season kind of got these guys juiced up a little bit more.”
That energy translated to the field, as the Pirates struck for three scores in the first half.
Out of the gates, even, Wheelersburg was aggressive and eager to attack. Freshman Aaron Jolly recorded a shot just 20 seconds into the match, though it missed to the left.
Jolly wouldn’t miss too many opportunities later in the match, as he scored all four goals for the Pirates.
His first score came with 27 minutes left in the first half on a pass from junior Athan Temponeras that hopped right over the head of the Waverly keeper.
However, the Tigers had an answer to the goal, as sophomore Grayson Diener scored just 28 seconds later for Waverly. With 26:32 left in the first half, the score was tied at 1-1.
The scoring stretch didn’t end there, though. Temponeras found Jolly once more for a shot that scooted just past the Waverly keeper in the right corner. At the 25:25 mark, Wheelersburg took a 2-1 lead, and never looked back.
Jolly got on the board again with 6:14 to go in the first half from freshman Carter McCorkle. The Pirates now claimed a 3-1 advantage, which they took into halftime.
“Early on our offense, which we haven’t generated a lot of over the season, came out and put up three goals against Waverly which was huge for us,” Estep said. “We came out and played like I expected us to play, like I hoped we would be playing at this time of the year.”
In the second half, the scoring was tamed a bit, though Jolly did add another goal. On this score, his shot was deflected off of a Tigers defender and accidentally knocked in by another Waverly player. In the end, though, Jolly was credited with his fourth goal with 17:14 left in the match.
Estep said that “opportunities, a little more grit and a little more toughness” were the ingredients for Jolly’s success. “These last couple games, he’s kind of fell into a freshman funk,” Estep added.
That freshman funk prompted Estep to challenge Jolly, who was able to respond in a big way.
“Tonight, I think he proved that he belongs out here and he can do a lot of great things when given the opportunity,” Estep said about his freshman. “He’s a smart kid, he’s got great feet, great touch and he does some great things when the ball is around him.”
In a night where seniors were honored, it was a freshman who shined on the field for Wheelersburg. Either way, there was a lot to celebrate.
The last week of the regular season is on the horizon now for the Pirates, who hope Jolly and the offense can keep things going. Wheelersburg will travel to South Webster on Tuesday (Oct. 10) and Portsmouth West on Thursday (Oct. 12).
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT