Jeeps, Pirates clinch district final berths

By Jacob Smith - [email protected]

Wheelersburg’s Aaron Jolly lines up for a free kick during the Pirates district semifinal win over Valley, Saturday.

Wheelersburg’s Aaron Jolly lines up for a free kick during the Pirates district semifinal win over Valley, Saturday.

Jacob Smith | Daily Times

Wheelersburg and South Webster both punched tickets to Division III district final games with wins over district semifinal opponents at Waverly’s Raidiger Field in downtown Waverly.

South Webster 6, Peebles 0

The South Webster team folks saw take the field Saturday in their 6-0 district semifinals win over Peebles was a determind, goal-oriented group focused on one thing and one thing only: getting the opportunity to compete for their fourth straight Division III boys soccer district title.

With their first goal coming at the 38:33 mark of the first half, the Jeeps wanted to leave little doubt as to what they hoped to achieve Saturday, and for the remainder of the postseason.

“I thought we did exactly what we needed to do,” Jeeps coach Corey Claxon said following the win. “We wanted to get on the board early, that takes a little bit of pressure off whether or not a team could hang in there in a close game. We were worried about a couple of their players up top, and I thought we covered those guys pretty well once we made an adjustment early on. I thought our offense moved the ball really well to set up opportunities for us to score, and then we finished strong. We didn’t expect the 6-0 result, but we want to be rolling as the post season goes along.”

The Jeeps first goal came early (see above), and it was of the unselfish variety. Sophomore Trae Zimmerman set up senior Gavin Bennett with the goal that would kick off the Jeeps scoring frenzy.

Over twenty minutes later, at the 14:47 mark of the first half, Zimmerman scored off an assist from senior Gabe Ruth to put the Jeeps ahead 2-0.

With 10:35 left in the half, a Brice Robnett goal for South Webster to make it 3-0 Jeeps, the score that would stay in place as the game shifted to the halftime break.

Ruth found the back of the net for the for time with 33:28 left in the match, putting his Jeeps up 4-0 as their bid for a district title berth seemed that much more realistic.

Aidan Andrews’ goal at the 21:15 mark of the second half made it 5-0 Jeeps followed by Ruth’s second goal of the match with 5:20 remaining, ending the contest with South Webster advancing, winners over Peebles, 6-0.

With the win, South Webster (14-3-1) will advance to next Thursday’s Waverly #1 district final vs. Ironton St. Joseph, 1-0 winners over North Adams in Saturday’s preceding district semifinal contest.

“We just want to come in playing our best soccer and focus on what we need to do,” Claxon said. “We figured North Adams as the higher seed would win, but once we got to watching the game we started antipicating for Ironton St. Joe. We’ll adjust to what they’ve got, try to set the tone, and ultimately we’d love to get our fourth title in a row.”

Wheelersburg 3, Valley 2

In their Division III boys soccer Waverly #2 district semifinal game, the Valley Indians gave county rival Wheelersburg their best shot.

Fortunately for the Pirates, 3-2 winners over Valley, they were able to respond well enough to punch their ticket to next Thursday’s Division III boys soccer Waverly #2 district final vs. Lynchburg-Clay.

“It was a night where early on, I thought they were the more hungry team,” Pirates coach Jon Estep said following the win. “I thought they were flying to the ball, and we were playing a little passive early on. We’ve kind of started both our tournament games like that, it’s something we’ve got to work on. I thought getting that goal just before half was huge for us, not only from a mental stand point, but also from a strategical stand point. It prevented them from falling back into a defensive mindset and allowed us to play our game.”

“We knew we had to start fast and try to get out to a lead,” Valley coach Andy Johnson said following the loss. “I thought we played outstanding throughout the first half. To lose another goal to an offsides call and then to give up a goal on what seemed like an obvious offside that was not called really changed the momentum. Our kids fought hard through the second half. We just gave them a couple opportunities that they capitalized on. We knew going in that they have a very talented team and that it would be hard to keep them off the scoreboard for the entire game. It gets tougher offensively when you are playing from behind and the defense can just clear the ball. I couldn’t be more proud of how we played tonight, we never gave up. It is a wonderful group that plays together as a team and are all great kids.”

Both Valley and Wheelersburg played the first twenty minutes to an even stand as neither team was able to find the back of the net in the early goings.

It took until the 16:35 mark of the first half to get the game’s first goal by Valley sophomore Bryce Stuart on an assist by senior Cameron Phillips to put the Indians ahead 1-0.

In their first match earlier this season, Valley took a 1-0 lead into the half. While Wheelersburg rallied and ended up winning that same game 3-1 thanks to three second half goals, it was a crucial point in Saturday’s game, as Estep mentioned, for his team to get the equalizing goal just ahead of the halftime break.

With 4:10 left in the half, junior Aaron Jolly scored his first goal of the game to do just what his coach wanted: even things up. Wheelersburg and Valley would take their 1-1 tie into the locker room.

Jolly’s second goal with 28:40 left in the match was of the fancy variety as the junior Pirate dribbled his way through several Indian defenders crowding him in their goalie’s box before the junior ultimately delivered the go-ahead strike for Wheelersburg to put his Pirates ahead 2-1.

At the 16:10 mark of the second half, Jolly found Pirates sophomore Nathan Sylvia standing near the Valley goal for their third score of the game to take a 3-1 lead as time quickly ticked away.

Valley made things quite interesting down the stretch however following Cameron Phillips goal with 8:45 left in the match. However, needing one more goal to extend things a little further into overtime, the Indians comeback attempt fell short as Wheelersburg walked away 3-2 winners in their district semifinal contest.

“We’re always talking about mental preparation and the mental focus we have to have,” Estep said. “We know that being Wheelersburg, teams are going to give us their best shot every chance they get. Being able to withstand their punch to get the scoring going and after our adjustments at halftime, that was encouraging to see. We knew the first fifteen minutes of the second half were crucial, proud of our guys for coming out ready to play to start that half and controlling possession for the most part.”

With their loss Saturday, Valley bids adieu to their seniors who will graduate in May: Christian Petry, Cameron Phillips, Logan Tubb, and Isaac Slack. Johnson took the time to reflect on what those four players mean to him as a coach and the Indians program as a whole.

“Our Seniors have given a lot to this program,” Johnson said. “Christian Petry was new to Valley this year, he really stepped in and played great at the defensive mid position all year. Our other three seniors (Phillips, Slack, and Tubb) are all four year players. Their freshman year, we only had 14 players in our program and struggled. But the last three years, they have helped build our program up and have won sectional titles each year. This year was our best team and the seniors really helped to set the tone. Isaac has improved his game so much the past couple of seasons and has become one of our better offensive players. Logan has worked as hard as anybody and has made himself an excellent defender. Cameron has been our best player, scoring 22 goals this season and 41 total for his career after missing most of his freshman season with an injury. He is not loud, but he leads by example; nobody plays harder than him. We will miss them all.”

With Saturday’s win, the Pirates advance to next Thursday’s Division III Waverly #2 district final where they will take on the Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs, 3-0 winners over Minford, Saturday in a D3 district semifinal.

A better start than one that his group has had in their first two games this postseason is definitely at the forefront of things Estep would like to see from his group as they go for the program’s first boys soccer district title since 2013.

“We’ve got to come out and play better in the first half,” Estep said. “We’ve got to play with a little more intensity, grit, heart, and control of the midfield. First two tournament games we haven’t looked good in the first half, we’ve got to find a way to start quicker energy wise, and hopefully get on the board a little quicker too.”

Wheelersburg’s Aaron Jolly lines up for a free kick during the Pirates district semifinal win over Valley, Saturday.’s Aaron Jolly lines up for a free kick during the Pirates district semifinal win over Valley, Saturday. Jacob Smith | Daily Times

By Jacob Smith

[email protected]

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved