On Saturday afternoon in Waverly, the Minford Falcons were faced with a tough task in the district tournament quarterfinals when Minford was matched up with the Mustangs of Lynchburg-Clay.
Lynchburg-Clay entered the match with a 14-1-2 record, and looked just as tough as their record indicated on their way to knocking off the Falcons by a final score of 4-1.
Early in the match, both teams fought to build momentum. Minford senior Elijah Craft showed off some speed of his own in the 5th minute, working his way in against the Mustang defense to record a shot. Craft was unable to score, but it was evident that his speed was going to create some mismatches in favor of Minford.
“Their coach told me [Craft] slipped under their radar, they didn’t see him being that speedy on the corner,” Falcons head coach Dave Gampp said.
It was the play of another senior, keeper Logan Boston, who kept Minford in the midst of the match throughout the first half.
Boston had several saves around the 10th minute, and another crucial stop in the 17th.
“Logan as my goalie has really stepped up this year,” Gampp said. “Every practice from freshman year on, he never missed. He would be the perfect player that any coach could ever want, and worked hard just to get to that position.”
While Lynchburg-Clay attacked early, they were unable to send a shot home. The Falcons kept their composure and were able to possess the ball towards the middle of the first half, and found several opportunities.
Sophomore Brayden Davis, who scored the go-ahead goal over Wheelersburg to get Minford to this match, barely missed on a shot in the 19th minute.
Then, Craft captured the edge once again with his quickness and sent a ball towards the net from the corner, but missed by a small margin in the 22nd.
Talen Coriell had another scoring chance for the Falcons stopped in the 27th minute when his attempt flew just off to the left.
“We had some good opportunities in the first half, we just couldn’t get it in the net,” Gampp said after the match.
After coming up just short on several shots, Minford was back on the other end of the field as the Mustangs now looked to strike. Lynchburg-Clay missed on two header attempts, one that was saved by Boston in the 31st, and another that went just high in the 33rd.
Still on the offensive assault, the Mustangs kept moving towards the net. In the 35th minute, a foul was called inside the box and Lynchburg-Clay had a penalty kick.
The Mustangs would make the most of the PK, as Kyle Luneke got past Boston on a ball that went in to put Lynchburg Clay up 1-0 with around five minutes before halftime.
At halftime, the Mustangs led the Falcons 1-0.
Just two minutes out of the break, Boston came up big once more for Minford with a save on what looked to be a sure goal.
Back down on the other end of the field for the Falcons offense, Coriell had a shot stopped in the 48th minute that would have tied up the match.
“We tried some through balls and had some decent shots, but their two center backs are quick and their two forwards up top are super fast,” Gampp said. “When you’ve got that combination at both ends, and you’ve got another kid handling the ball in the middle, it’s tough.”
Coming up just short, Minford was now back on defense relatively quickly as Lynchburg-Clay got the ball up field in a hurry. Two minutes after the Coriell shot, Boston was back to work with a series of saves in the 50th minute to maintain the one score deficit.
However, Boston couldn’t keep the ball out of the net in the 52nd, after being attacked with a frenzy of shots from the Mustangs. A header from Austin Hilt in the 52nd frame stretched the Lynchburg lead to 2-0.
Still very much alive in the match, Minford knew they would need to move quickly to try and make a comeback. Unfortunately, those efforts were in jeopardy in the 59th after another Luneke score on a header stretched the margin to 3-0.
Coriell would get the Falcons on the board in the 65th, when he struck a ball over the head of the Mustang keeper.
“Talen put a heck of a shot on,” Gampp said. “Any time Talen takes a shot from outside, somehow he’s always got a good touch on it.”
Faced with a 3-1 deficit and only 15 minutes to play, it was too little too late for Minford.
The match looked to be officially out of reach when Ethan Garrison scored in the 69th to stretch the margin to 4-1, which would ultimately be the final score.
Still, the Falcons fought hard until the final whistle sounded.
“Our kids didn’t give up,” Gampp said. “They fought hard the whole time and tried every chance they could to get the ball in the net.”
With the loss, Minford’s season comes to an end. This spells the end of the careers of seven seniors for the Falcons, a special group that has stayed intact for many years.
“I’ve got three seniors that have got a 4.0 [GPA] all the way through high school,” Gampp said. “I’ve got smart kids … they’re going to move on in life and make some tough decisions, and I just told them that if you’ve got anything tough coming along the way, feel free to come to me and talk to me. I’d be glad to help them … I just want them to know that I’m going to miss them all.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter at @BSpicerPDT or on Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer