SOUTH WEBSTER — After Saturday’s loss against the Logan Chieftains in a road bout at Logan, South Webster head coach Corey Claxon hoped that his program would be able to pour in the goals against a well-coached and perennially tough Wheelersburg Pirates’ soccer program.
The veteran coach got his wish — and then some — in large part thanks to Dee Thompson.
With South Webster trailing by a 1-0 deficit following a great Wheelersburg effort that resulted in an Aaron Jolly goal in the seventh minute of play, Thompson, the team’s lone senior, followed 11 minutes later with a goal of his own off of a beauty of a bender from the backline to tie the score.
However, Thompson not only tied the score, but gave South Webster the spark that it needed to take control of the affair. Thompson’s 18th minute blast, along with Ty Collins’ shot in front of the goal in the 20th tally and Sam Holstein’s masterful finish in the 26th minute, allowed the Jeeps to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead in a matter of eight minutes as the Jeeps rolled on to a 6-1 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday evening in South Webster.
For Claxon, the victory, and the effort that led to the positive result, was certainly pleasing to see considering the work that South Webster has put together in order to improve.
“It was Senior Night, and we tied with Wheelersburg the last time,” Claxon said. “We just felt like we had to prove something here. I thought that we did a good job getting the ball crossed in, and anytime you get the ball in front of the goal, good things happen. We were able to do that and knock a few shots into the back of the net. I’m pleased with our effort. The guys played really hard tonight.”
As for Jon Estep, the Wheelersburg head coaching hand got the attention to detail that he was looking for through the first 15 minutes of Tuesday’s nonconference affair. However, the veteran soccer mind knows that his unit will have to put together more consistent showings going forward if the Pirates hope to make a satisfactory postseason run.
“We came out, and over the first 15 minutes of action, we played as I had hoped we would,” Estep said. “After that, they get a goal on the backside where we didn’t have it covered, and the skies opened up from there. We did a lot more talking about things we couldn’t control than what we could control, and when you do that against a team like South Webster, you’re going to be in trouble. They’ve got a really good soccer team, a really good soccer program, and when we start talking about the field conditions instead of making adjustments defensively, then it’ll be a long night.”
During the first 15 minutes of play, however, the contest looked as if it would be another gritty affair between the two opponents. After several strong runs at the goal from both squads, the Pirates’ excellent passing allowed Aaron Jolly to score from the middle of the box as the freshman, ever the gritty competitor, put Wheelersburg up by a 1-0 tally in the seventh minute with his shot from the left side of the box.
“You get the ball at Aaron’s feet in the middle of the field, and good things happen,” Estep said. “He was in a good spot, received a nice pass from Brice (Robnett), and he was able to put the ball in the back of the net and give us a nice start to the game. We’ve just got to give him more opportunities. If we can give him more opportunities, the better offense we’re going to have, and it keeps the pressure off of our defense. We’ve got to find ways to get that done against better teams.”
But even with the Pirates up by a 1-0 tally, the opening salvo did little to slow down South Webster. After the Jeeps barely missed on a corner kick that was nearly headed into the net by Devyn Coriell, Thompson fittingly got the scoring started for South Webster by collecting a 19th minute tally off of a pass from the middle of the field from Shiloah Blevins to start the game’s scoring.
“We got down, but man, Dee (Thompson) steps up, gives us the game-tying goal, and gives us some momentum there,” Claxon said. “He scores and the bench goes nuts. It was easily the most exciting goal of the night. It’s great to see him persevere and make a statement on a very special night for him.”
The initial statement by Thompson, however, only got the ball rolling for the talented frontline. Over the following eight minutes, excellent combination play by Blevins, Collins, Holstein, and Thompson resulted in goals for Collins in the 20th minute and Holstein in the 26th tally off of assists from Blevins as South Webster quickly took a 3-1 advantage and held the margin to the halftime break.
“All of those guys worked really well together,” Claxon said. “They seemed to really know where each other would be. It’s really been good combination play all year long from those guys.”
In the second half, South Webster continued to set the tempo behind a solid backline that included Jacob Ruth and Michael Andrews among others, as the Jeeps only allowed Wheelersburg to attempt three shots all game long, including just one in the second half of play.
“Our backline’s been really solid,” Claxon said. “The most goals that we gave up was against Logan (three), which is a Division I school. We haven’t given up a lot of goals, and that’s important late in the season.”
While the defense kept its end of the bargain in the second half, the offense wasted no time expanding its lead. In the 44th minute, Collins attempted to shoot a pass toward the middle of the pitch that was intended for Blevins.
Even though the pass was disrupted by a Wheelersburg defender, the ball still found its way to Blevins’ feet off of the bounce, and the junior, with room to spare, pulled on a shot from 20 yards out that sailed straight into the back of the net en route to giving South Webster a 4-1 lead. Blevins then continued his dominating performance by adding his fourth assist of the game on a Holstein shot in front of the net in the 48th minute, and Holstein, whose hustle has been omnipresent in 2017, officially obtained a hat trick on the evening with his third goal on the evening in the 50th minute to cap the scoring.
“I hoped that we would come out in the second half with a little bit more fire,” Estep said. “We did for about five minutes, then Shiloah scores that goal from about 20 yards out and takes the air out of us again. They capitalized on what we did not do. They’re a good soccer program, and they’re going to have a nice tournament run. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”
With the win, South Webster improved its record to 9-1-4 on the year. The Jeeps’ loss on Saturday to Logan serves as South Webster’s only regular season loss over its last 30 regular season affairs.
“I’m really happy with the way that this team’s come together,” Claxon said. “They really work hard. That’s made the difference in us having a great year in 2017, even after what we lost the year prior. We want to finish the season strong, and try to peak at the right time. “Hopefully, we’ll come in strong on Thursday at New Boston. We can’t let down at all for them or Waverly, so we’ll need to finish strong.”
As for Wheelersburg, the Pirates, who now sit with a 6-5-3 record on the year, will look to get back on the right track on Thursday when West plays host to Estep’s program.
“We have West on Thursday before postseason play starts,” Estep said, “so we hope to build off of the mistakes that we made today, and come back and make the necessary adjustments that we need to make for Thursday, then push forward moving into tournament play next week.”