WHEELERSBURG — If you looked away in the opening 10 seconds on Tuesday night, or down at your cellphone for long enough, then you missed Aaron Jolly just simply setting the tone.
That’s because the senior standout forward Jolly, the 2019 Division III Southeast District Player of the Year and first-team all-Ohioan, scored a hat trick of goals and added an assist in a matter of 32 minutes — and joined his Wheelersburg Pirates’ teammates in a dominating first-half home performance.
The Pirates poured on five first-half goals against visiting South Webster, and shut out the Jeeps by a 5-0 count in a key early-season Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer clash at Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg.
Wheelersburg, which more impressively hasn’t allowed a single solitary goal to date, raised its record to 3-0-0 — and is now 2-0-0 in the SOC II as it defends its latest conference championship.
Jolly, with two unassisted goals in first eight minutes, jump-started the Pirates to a 3-0 advantage.
With most of the match already being played in the Pirates’ offensive half or third, he then completed his hat trick with eight minutes remaining in the first 40.
Truth be told, Jolly came to play from the opening kick.
“I talk about with Aaron (Jolly) that great players show up in big games. He’s taken that a little personal. To come out early in the game like this against your rival and set the tone, that’s what leaders do. As one of the top players in the area, that’s what you do. When you score like that 10 seconds in, you put doubt in the other team,” said Wheelersburg coach Jon Estep. “That’s what carried us throughout the first half.”
Lane Jordan — another senior on an athletic, experienced, communicative, skilled and speedy Wheelersburg front — assisted Jolly’s final goal.
In between, junior Jacob Saxby tallied twice — with Jordan on the first following the ricochet of a direct kick and Jolly on the second amounted the assists.
Saxby’s first goal was with 34:17 to make it 2-0, with the second occurring exactly 11 minutes and 50 seconds later for the 4-0 lead.
But Jolly’s initial tally is what was remembered most, especially if you likely blinked and didn’t see it.
“We gave the ball up in our half and Jolly got it, took a good shot before we even could react,” said South Webster coach Corey Claxon. “That set the tone for the first half.”
It also allowed the Pirate defense to settle in, and lock down.
Estep praised his individual Pirates from freshman Max Hagans and junior Braxton Sammons in the midfield to four-year starting center back Logan Davis to “who we think is the best goalkeeper in the area” in Eric Green.
On both ends of the pitch, Wheelersburg’s spacing was spectacular — as well as its constant communication.
“We have a lot of very soccer-knowledgeable guys. We’re starting two guys that hadn’t played a varsity minute until this year in Max Hagans and Braxton Sammons. With those two, our guys on the outside running four deep, and Aaron (Jolly) and Jacob (Saxby) knowing each other in and out by playing together for three years, it gives us a lot of experience and skill among the front six. Whenever you have that, it’s a great combination,” said Estep. “Then a good defense relies on a solid midfield. We pride ourselves on our midfielders, who we think are pretty deep. Guys were able to rotate in and out all night long. We can go five, six or seven deep, especially in our front six. We have a lot of confidence in the guys coming in. So being able to stay fresh we think is going to play to our advantage. Through three games, we haven’t allowed a goal. It’s something that I think they have a set personal goal back there as a collective group. We have five guys who continuously rotate (back line), and if our midfield can control a match early, keep our spacing and let our back guys work, we’re in pretty good shape. Those guys are going to take pride in shutouts every night.”
Sammons makes a significant difference, as he did not play his first two seasons —and instead elected to focus on punting and placekicking for the Pirates’ football team, of which he was a Division V third-team all-Ohioan last year.
Meanwhile, the Jeeps — which advanced all the way to the Division III regional championship tilt last season — were impacted by the graduation losses of four key players.
Those were forward Gavin Bennett — and midfielders/defenders Braden Martin, Brice Robnett and Gabe Ruth.
The Pirates outshot South Webster 21-6 including 13-3 on goal, as Jolly fired eight shots with six on goal — and Saxby had three of each and Sammons one.
South Webster sophomore keeper Jaren Lower made eight saves.
Trae Zimmerman paced the Jeeps with four shots, as Cayden Richmond and Tryston Robinson registered once apiece.
Wheelersburg doubled up the Jeeps in corner kicks, 4-2.
The Pirates played primarily possession in the second half, but the younger Jeeps — in their second SOC II season after multiple years of handling the SOC I — performed better.
The Jeeps fell to 1-1-0, both overall and in the SOC II, as their original season opener against Alexander on Aug. 22 was postponed due to inclement weather.
They did defeat Waverly with a 1-0 count in the revised season opener.
“The second half, we started marking and playing a little better. We chalk it up to a bad half, and maybe making adjustments at halftime helped us make a difference. Our guys played hard and this is a learning experience. It’s not the end of the season. It’s the beginning of the season,” said Claxon. “We’re still learning which guys can play in which spots and it’s early enough we can figure some things out. We’ll see them again at our place and hope for a different outcome. But most of all, we’re going to continue to get better.”
South Webster will host the return match between the two — in almost a month on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Estep said he expects a much different Jeep group the second time around.
“We’ve always had close matches with them for the last several years. We know they are well-coached. Corey (Claxon) is going to make adjustments as he always has. The next time we see them, we know they are going to come up with another gameplan,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to improve, get better and stay focused.”
The Jeeps return to the road — and step out of SOC II action — at Clay on Thursday, while Wheelersburg will host Waverly on Thursday in another SOC II duel.
* * *
South Webster 0 0 — 0
Wheelersburg 5 0 —5
W — Aaron Jolly (unassisted), 39:50, 1st (1-0 W)
W — Jacob Saxby (Lane Jordan assist), 34:17, 1st (2-0 W)
W — Aaron Jolly (unassisted), 32:08, 1st (3-0 W)
W — Jacob Saxby (Aaron Jolly assist), 22:27, 1st (4-0 W)
W —Aaron Jolly (Lane Jordan assist), 7:58, 1st (5-0 W)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved