Source: Ben Spicer - Daily TimesMinford HC Dave Gampp talks about the play of his team in their 2-1 win over Wheelersburg
A spot in the district tournament was on the line Wednesday night as familiar SOC foes met for a sectional championship.
The Wheelersburg Pirates came to Minford High School looking for their first win over the Falcons this season, and with their season on the line now was the time to try and capture that elusive victory.
In both meetings this season, Wheelersburg was just a goal away from a W. The Pirates tied with Minford 1-1 on August 31, and fell to the Falcons 2-1 on Sept. 26. Once again, Wheelersburg would fall just short in the third meeting, 2-1.
The Pirates came close once more, but a couple bad bounces wound up being too much to overcome for Wheelersburg.
“We knew coming in to it that one goal separated us all year long,” Pirates head coach Jon Estep said. “It was the deflection off one of our full backs last game, and we had an opportunity to win the first game.”
It was a low scoring game in the end, but both teams had their fair share of opportunities throughout the match.
Wheelersburg senior keeper Dylan Burton put a strong performance on display to keep his Pirates in the thick of things. Burton played a big role in the success of this season for his team, in large part due to his growth as a player in his final year with Wheelersburg.
“From last year to this year, he’s made leaps and bounds,” Estep said on Burton. “He went from being a big kid in the goal that understood the game to this year being a lot more aggressive and keeping us in a lot of games. He helped us win games that were one goal games, we had a lot of those on our schedule this year.”
Burton made a save seven minutes into the match, keeping it scoreless to start things off. The save gave Nathan McLaughlin a chance to score just over a minute later, but the shot flew just off to the left.
In the 15th minute, Burton showcased his keeper skills yet again on another nice save. The stop led to another scoring chance for the Pirates, this time Aaron Jolly had a chance a minute later. However, Jolly’s shot was saved by Minford’s Logan Boston.
Boston had a big match in his own right, but it was Burton who stole the show early in the first half. Burton snagged another shot in the 21st minute, and stalled two more balls just two minutes later.
Those stops once again gave Wheelersburg an offensive opportunity, but Boston was able to prevent that for the Falcons. Boston’s save in the 26th minute led to a Talen Coriell goal just 26 seconds later on a nice dish from Brian Patrick.
Minford kept the attack coming, as a shot from Michael Patrick in the 33rd minute hit the bar at the top of the goal. In the 38th, the Falcons found another chance from Adam Cordle, but the sophomore’s shot sailed just high.
Through 40 minutes, Minford had a 1-0 lead over Wheelersburg.
While it was Burton who faced a frenzy of Falcons shots in the first half, it was Boston who felt the pressure from the Pirates in the final frame of action.
First, Boston held his ground on a corner kick from Wheelersburg in the 45th minute. Then, Boston made the play of the day when he came out of the goal to make a stop in the 53rd mark of the match.
Fortunately for Minford, the defense had Boston’s back and kept the Pirates off the board at that point.
“Logan [Boston] came out strong, just like he needs to,” Minford head coach Dave Gampp said. “He went for the ball hard, and that’s what you’ve got to do as a goalie.”
Gampp liked what he saw not only from Boston, but from the back line as well, particularly from senior Zach Higbee.
“Zach, super good on my back line, center mid, not letting anything get by,” Gampp said. “I don’t think anything got by him.”
The Falcons defense did let one get by them in the 54th minute on a cross from Wheelersburg, when Athan Temponeras was pulled down in the box.
Cameron Colbert took the penalty kick for the Pirates, and sank his shot right in the middle of the net. With just over 25 minutes left to play in the match, the score was tied at 1-1.
With the score, the momentum seemed to shift back into the hands of Wheelersburg. At least for the next few minutes of the match.
“When you’re in close games like that, you never want to give a team a chance,” Gampp said. “When you go up one, and they come back and tie it up, they kind of get momentum.”
Minford was able to steal that momentum in the 60th minute, when sophomore Brayden Davis headed a goal in for the Falcons on a clean pass from Cordle to give Minford a 2-1 lead.
“I feel like we played better in the first half, but we picked it up in the end,” Davis said after the match. “I had a header in the second half which brought us up, then we just started playing a little more defensive.”
The score from Davis was the difference maker in the match, and was a clutch play from the crafty Falcons player.
“Michael Patrick played a ball over the top on a free kick, and Adam flicked it a little to me and I just chested it and headed it in the side netting,” Davis said.
With exactly 20 minutes to play, Estep knew his team was on the ropes after the score from Davis.
“Unfortunately, we had a miscommunication on their second goal and they stayed aggressive with it and went through the ball,” Estep said. “We kind of stood and watched, and that was the difference in the game.”
In the final ten minutes of play, the Pirates tried desperately to tie things up. Temponeras had a shot miss high in the 72nd minute, and Brice Robnett was off to the right in the 73rd.
“We knew this game was going to come down to the last second,” Estep said after the match.
The Wheelersburg head coach wasn’t wrong. Down to the wire, the Pirates pushed to try and tie the match. With under 15 seconds to play, a throw in to Carter McCorkle had some promise, but the freshman’s header attempt was caught by Boston in the net.
“I’m super proud of my kids,” Gampp said. “We’re the sectional champs, we get to go to districts.”
Next on the agenda for Minford is a date with Lynchburg-Clay on Saturday at 5 pm in Lynchburg. The Mustangs boast a 13-1-2 record this season, with their only loss coming to Alexander.
“You look at their stats, they’ve got three scorers and it’s all three of the same names they had last year,” Gampp said about the Mustangs from Lynchburg-Clay. “So, you know they’re a cohesive unit. They work together solid.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pirates are looking primed to make a run next season.
“When you have nine starters coming back, we haven’t been in that boat in my years that I’ve been here,” Estep said. “We’ve lost six and 12 seniors over the last two years, so to only lose three seniors, we like where we’re at going in to the offseason.”
Currently on the 2017 roster, Wheelersburg has only nine upperclassman and 15 underclassman. Only three of those players are seniors, so if everyone returns the Pirates will already have 21 players lined up for next year.
Gampp and Minford are focused on the now, but the Falcons know what Wheelersburg will have next season too.
“Best of luck to Wheelersburg next year,” Gampp said. “They’ve got a really young squad, they’ll be a really tough team next year.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT