It was clear early on that the South Webster Jeeps were determined to make their third straight regional tournament appearance as they were able to defeat Wheelersburg 4-0 in the district championship matchup between the neighboring schools.
“It’s something at the beginning of the season that we thought we had a chance of doing” said South Webster head coach Corey Claxon following his team’s 4-0 victory in Waverly Thursday night, “To actually pull through and fulfill that, it’s just a great feeling and a great thing to be a part of. The game tonight, it felt like we had a lot of chances and a lot of shots and their keeper made some big saves. It just took time to finally get them in and get it going, but persistence paid off and it was good to get a comfortable lead, to be able to knock four of them in was a great thing for us.”
“This game could have been a little bit more if it wasn’t for Eric Green back there” said Pirates head coach Jon Estep following their loss Thursday, “He made some great saves back there. Their depth, their experience. There’s a reason that they’ve been in this spot before. The experience they’ve had in the tournament and our lack of experience in a big moment like this. The last time we were here it was a couple of my seniors’ freshman year. Most of them hadn’t been a part of anything like this. Their experience took over, and they are fast. They’re fast all over the field. We wore down a little bit and they just kept coming.”
South Webster was able to set the pace and tone of Thursday night’s district championship match early. At the 34:25 mark of the first half, Gavin Bennett took a corner kick where he was able to find the head of defender Zach Robinson to net the game’s first goal past Wheelersburg goalie Eric Green. Although both teams kept up the aggressive play, the score would remain 1-0 heading into the halftime break.
The second half would begin much like the first, expect for the fact the Jeeps scoring outburst wouldn’t remain at just one. At the 31:44 mark of the second half, South Webster senior forward Shiloah Blevins would increase his team’s lead to 2-0 off an unassisted goal. Not even four minutes later, Gabe Ruth was able to find the back of the net on a rebound shot to give South Webster the commanding 3-0 lead with 27:36 remaining in the contest. Blevins would strike once again just over ten minutes later to close the Pirates hopes of a regional semifinal berth with his second goal at the 16:09 mark of the second half. Neither team would tack on another goal for the remainder of the match, securing South Webster’s third straight district championship and a 4-0 shutout victory.
“The guys all tell me to try and finesse my shots and pick a corner” said Blevins following his two goal performance in South Webster’s 4-0 victory, “I’m just like, ‘I’m going to go hit it as hard as I can’.”
Wheelersburg may have lost at an earlier stage than they would have liked, but their season as a whole was anything far from a disappointment. “We’re proud of our seniors, the six of them” said Estep, “They’ve really help restore some pride back into it that we had lost for a year or two. As far as putting in the work and putting in the time and the effort, these kids love to play this game. We may not get the top tier athletes with football being around, but these guys really work their butts off to get to where we are and to get our program again with a couple trophies in the trophy case, so we can work on it to build off of.”
As for South Webster, they advance to the regional semifinals next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at Marietta College where they will face the winner of Berlin Hiland and Bishop Rosecrans.
“We’ve seen Hiland play” said Claxon gearing up for their regional semifinal bout, “It’s going to be a tough game from here on out, but I think we can match up with them or Rosecrans. They play Saturday up at Coshocton High School. My wife’s actually from that area so we’ll go up and watch them. It should be a good game, I think we’ve got just as good of a shot as anybody in winning.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org