MINFORD —With their rain-soaked pitch conditions deteriorating, their goalkeeper awarded a yellow card, and their defense bending against the visiting New Boston Tigers, the one thing that the Minford Falcons didn’t do was break.
Indeed, the host Falcons redefined on Wednesday what it means to survive and advance in postseason tournament play.
Minford, buoyed by two goals in the first half of the first half, maintained a one-goal advantage over the Tigers for the final 43 minutes and seven seconds — and prevailed 2-1 in a physical and even feisty Division III boys soccer sectional semifinal tilt.
The Falcons, for the final 15 minutes, found themselves hanging on to their 2-1 lead —but basically entrenched in their defensive half and third.
It’s just that the Tigers, trying so hard to get junior Tanner Voiers the ball for the game-tying goal, never got that ultimate equalizer.
Thus, the third-seeded Falcons raised their record to 12-4-1 and, more importantly, captured the sectional championship and advanced to Division III district competition.
Indeed, as Minford coach Dave Gampp said afterwards — all a team needs to be is one goal better than the opposition, which the Falcons were on Wednesday.
“We got a win. At this time of the year, the field feels wet and slick and it gets ugly with just some ugly soccer at times. But getting the ‘W’ is what matters. The scoreboard shows 2-1 for us,” he said.
The scoreboard also showed 2-1 in favor of the Falcons’ district semifinal opponent — second-seeded Lynchburg-Clay.
The host Mustangs edged Highland County rival Leesburg Fairfield on Wednesday, setting the stage for Saturday night’s Division III district semifinal match at Waverly’s Raidiger Field.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and is the nightcap of four Division III district semifinals that day.
It was almost the sixth-seeded Tigers advancing, though, as they got a goal from Voiers at the 3:07 mark of the opening half to trail 2-1.
New Boston had its chances against Minford goalkeeper Jesse Cantrell, but could never net any more of its 16 total shots, including nine on goal.
Cantrell — who drew the yellow card after a nasty collision with New Boston’s Blake Grant with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining — checked out for 15 seconds, and finished with six big saves including one with 8:22 to play.
In the first half, Cantrell collected a diving stop to preserve the 2-0 advantage.
“Our hard play and our teamwork got us a lot of opportunities, but even though they were close, we still missed them. We couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net more than once unfortunately,” said New Boston coach Greg Mauk.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though, as Gampp even admitted.
The Falcons shut out the Tigers 4-0 in a regular-season meeting, but New Boston believed it could have, should have, or would have had four goals had it connected on a few more of its attempts.
With around 22 minutes to play, a scramble in front of the net resulted in Minford defender Josh Wiehle making a quick-thinking non-keeper save.
As Voiers touched the ball more frequently in the final half of the second half, he appeared to get free from his man-mark with only a minute and 50 seconds remaining — and Malachi Potts’ pass to him gave him a wide open and almost completely clear breakaway towards Cantrell.
But the officials ruled Voiers was offside, much to the dismay of the Tiger fans in attendance.
A minute later, Jerome McKinley made one last rush for New Boston, but the Falcon midfielders finally broke up the run.
“Give New Boston credit. They didn’t give up and fought hard. They played really well tonight. We got a little disoriented there the last 15 minutes of the second half, and New Boston was very aggressive and pushing their numbers up. We should have got our numbers back defensively, where we were too aggressive on the offensive side,” said Gampp. “We had that giant chasm in the middle of the field, which I hate, when you are going from one end of the field straight to the other.”
Gampp added that the Falcons were without junior Caden Banks because of a concussion, as he is the squad’s fast defensive center back.
What the coach didn’t want to have happen was Voiers get loose for the game-tying goal.
“(Tanner) Voiers played really tough. We got to the point where I felt like we had to match up on him the last few minutes and try not to let him score the tying goal,” said Gampp. “We missed Caden (Banks) tonight. This was a really tough game not having that great speed that he has where he can run down anybody. We didn’t have quite the speed in the middle as we normally do, which really helps us out, but we recovered well.”
The Falcons recovered especially well from Cantrell receiving just a yellow card — and not a red card and subsequent ejection for the sequence involving Grant.
Grant and Cantrell collided at the top of the goalbox, and Grant was injured on the play and did not return.
Gampp replaced Cantrell in goal with sophomore Jacob Lewis, as Voiers’ free kick on the opening whistle immediately following found nothing but Lewis’ hands.
“It was a big play. Jesse just got a little out of control and he deserved the yellow card on that. He was out way too deep and went way too hard into the player. Jacob Lewis is our only backup keeper, and he has been in that spot twice this year. He is not a big kid, but Jacob has good sure hands,” said the coach. “I was confident enough that if a ball came at him, he was going to get his hands on it and grab it.”
He did, as the Falcons grabbed the lead on goals by Brayden Davis and Skyler Knore.
Knore assisted on Davis’ goal which was a header almost eight minutes in, as Minford worked the ball hard to the outside wings, then came back towards the middle with the defense spread out.
With 24 minutes remaining, Knore knocked one in from roughly 20 or 25 yards away, as his high-arching and lobbed blast barely grazed the outstretched hands of New Boston keeper Brady Voiers.
Had Knore not squeezed that shot just overtop of Voiers’ fingertips, it likely would have been tipped out.
“It helps to get up two goals like that,” said Gampp.
But the Tigers didn’t back down, and instead shut out the Falcons for the final 63 minutes and 58 seconds.
They then trimmed the deficit in half with Tanner Voiers’ tally, but just never netted again.
“I don’t think we realized the aggression that Minford was going to come at us with. Unfortunately, it took two goals for us to understand they are going 100 (miles per hour), they are quick, and they are skilled. We weren’t as ready as we wanted to be, but I’m so proud of this team for never stop fighting,” said Mauk. “After those first two goals, they stayed positive, they knew they could get back in it and they did. They fought all the way to the end, never gave up on each other or themselves.”
The loss ended the Tigers’ campaign at an even 9-9-0, as the match marked the final for four seniors — Grant, Potts, Marcus Saunders and Kayla Akers.
All except Akers played regular minutes on Wednesday.
“The way our seniors played tonight was just great to see,” said Mauk. “They knew this was their last chance to prove something, and even though we didn’t get the win, they left it all out on the field. We are very proud of them.”
Mauk is also already excited about next season.
“These underclassmen that we have, a lot of them had not played soccer at all in their lives until this year. For them to come on this year and learn the game and learn to love the game, I know we have a bright future ahead of us. Look out for Glenwood soccer,” he said. “We definitely brought some respect back to our school with the way we played tonight.”
Although, it is Minford — despite bending but not breaking — moving on.
“This was a very good physical game tonight, and I knew New Boston would give us a good game. But we’re glad to be advancing,” said Gampp. “I knew the field wasn’t going to be in the greatest condition for the type of soccer we like to play, but we’ll take playing on turf for the rest of the year.”
* * *
New Boston 1 0 — 1
Minford 2 0 — 2
M — Brayden Davis (Skyler Knore assist), 32:23, 1st (1-0 M)
M — Skyler Knore (Adam Cordle assist), 23:58, 1st (2-0 M)
NB — Tanner Voiers (unassisted), 3:07, 1st (2-1 M)
SHOTS — New Boston 16, Minford 22
SHOTS ON GOAL — New Boston 9, Minford 10
SAVES — New Boston 8 (Brady Voiers 8), Minford 8 (Jesse Cantrell 6, Jacob Lewis 1, Josh Wiehle (NK) 1 )
CORNER KICKS — New Boston 6, Minford 6
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved