LUCASVILLE – Needing a win or draw to claim an outright SOC I boys soccer title, the school’s first since 2002, the Clay Panthers knew exactly what game plan they would use to try and earn a road win over conference rival Valley.
Even Clay coach Doug Ledingham was honest with what their plan would be following his team’s 2-1 win over Ironton St. Joe Tuesday: pack it in, don’t get beat, and score at opportune times.
In Thursday’s 1-0 road win over Valley, the game’s lone goal coming off the foot of junior Corvan Clark, the first of his career, the Clay Panthers executed that game-plan to a tee.
“Real proud of our defense, real proud of us as a team,” said Ledingham following the win. “We play defense, and we score when the opportunity presents itself. Really proud of the guys. They stuck with the game plan, and kept fighting until the very end.”
“It’s a really great experience for our team,” Clark said after the win. “To be able to score the goal for us is a privilege, it feels amazing for all of us right now.”
Valley controlled possession for a lot of the game by working the ball around the field and trying their best to crack Clay’s back line and past Clay senior goalie Dakota Dodds who recorded his 500th career save in Thursday’s win.
In that aspect, Valley coach Andy Johnson couldn’t be prouder of the way his team fought their way through Thursday’s loss.
“First I’d like to congratulate Clay on winning the SOC, they’ve had a great season,” Johnson said. “We knew coming in they would try stacking the box, bring back a lot of defenders. I thought we possessed the ball really well, we just couldn’t get any good looks. It’s frustrating to have the ball that much and not be able to put one in, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Corvan Clark’s lone goal of Thursday’s road win for the Panthers came in the latter stages of the first half, specifically at the 12:20 mark. Being the first of his career, it feels very apropos that it was assisted by the school’s all-time leading goal scorer, Bryce Toomire.
“The team loves Corvan,” Ledingham said after the win. “Corvan’s only been playing for two years, touched the ball as a freshman for the first time. He’s a great kid, works really, really hard, and we’re really happy he’s the one who got the game winning goal.”
A Valley win in Thursday’s match with Clay meant that the Indians would share the SOC I boys soccer title with the Panthers. But understandable selfishness prevailed in the Panthers’ mind and pushed them towards seeking an outright conference championship.
Needing a win or a draw to do so, Thursday’s win capped off a picture perfect regular season for the Panthers who enter postseason play 10-4-2 while Valley enters the postseason 6-7-3.
“This is what we wanted, we wanted to win it outright,” Ledingham said. “Valley’s a great program, Andy’s [Johnson] a great coach. We really battled back and forth, I just think it’s our time.
In all likelihood, Thursday’s match will not be the last time these two teams meet on the pitch this season.
If Valley defeats a win-less Westfall team, which they are likely to do, Valley will travel to Clay for a third match between the Indians and the Panthers on October 16th in their Division III Waverly #2 sectional match-up.
A winner take all round three match between these two great soccer rivals? Yes, please.
“We’re trying to focus on our defense, finishing our shots, making the most out of the chances we give ourselves,” Ledingham said. “Really, really proud of this group, and I love them very much. They’re great kids.”
“We just have to keep our heads up,” Johnson said. “Stay positive. We’re a good team, we have to refocus to get ready for the tournament. We should be able to handle Westfall here, and we’re looking forward to getting another shot at Clay.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved