ROSEMOUNT — This one kind of made one wonder what was in the water at Clay High School on Thursday.
That’s because — following the match’s lone water break halfway through the first half — it seemed as if the visiting Ironton St. Joseph Flyers found not bottles, but indeed a fountain of youth.
What the Flyers for sure found was the back of the net for three first-half goals, and an increased energy with each one made, as St. Joseph pitched a 4-0 shutout of the Clay Panthers in a key Southern Ohio Conference Division I boys soccer clash.
With the victory, the undefeated Flyers raised their record to 4-0-1 — and 2-0-1 in the SOC I.
The loss left the Panthers, primed for an important two-match SOC stretch with St. Joseph coming calling before visiting Valley on Tuesday, at 3-2-1 and 1-1-0 (SOC I).
But the Flyers first found success by controlling the possession, and maintaining the match’s first-half play in their offensive half and third.
Through the opening 20 minutes, and with the Panthers loading back on the defensive end, Clay keeper Shaden Malone made multiple saves — as the score stood tied at 0-0 entering the water break just inside the 20-minute mark.
After that, though, the Flyers’ floodgates opened —and the dam broke for Clay.
Over the final 19 minutes and 13 seconds, St. Joseph scored three goals, including two by senior striker Jackson Rowe — who then scored the second-half tally to give himself a hat trick and make it an insurmountable 4-0 advantage with only 17-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Zach Johnson assisted on Rowe’s first two goals, while Dru Canter collected the assist on his third.
Clay coach Doug Ledingham lamented at the differences from the opening 20 minutes to the next.
For the half, St. Joseph registered 13 shots including seven on goal, while Clay attempted only one.
The Panthers also did not have a single solitary first-half corner kick, compared to eight and nine for the entire match for St. Joe.
“The first 20 minutes, our gameplan was perfect. The second 20 minutes after the water break, we came out flat and gave away way too many corner kicks. You can’t do that to a good team and a great program like St. Joe. They capitalized on the corner kicks that we gave them and they scored off two headers. That was enough to sink us. Being down 3-0 at halftime, it is a lot to come back from against a team of that caliber,” said Ledingham. “We committed a lot of players to defense, and it worked fine for the first 20 minutes. Score was 0-0 at that point.”
But by the 19:13 juncture, it was 1-0 Flyers.
Johnson, just a sophomore, dribbled down towards the left corner against the Panther defense —then one-touched with his left foot a left-to-right cross that found Rowe right smack dab in the middle of the box.
Rowe rocketed the orb beyond Malone’s reach, as Johnson and Rowe later hooked up with 2:52 remaining in the half.
But with 10-and-a-half minutes elapsed after the Flyers’ first marker, they made it a crowd-silencing 2-0 score with a goal off a corner kick.
Bryce Balestra lobbed the corner towards the tall J.C. Damron, who headed it in.
Again, it was St. Joseph’s ability to put up corner kicks, compared to only two for Clay in the entire match.
The Flyers held a 24-21 shots advantage, including a 17-12 margin on goal.
As part of the shutout, senior keeper Jimmy Mahlmeister made a dozen saves, as Malone made four before playing strictly striker in the second half.
The Panthers played better in the second 40 minutes, allowing only the one goal, as backup keeper Noah Wright came in and posted nine saves.
Ledingham praised Panther juniors Landon Thomas and Nate Penn, proclaiming Thomas “played the best match of his life” while the first-year performer Penn “did an outstanding job.”
“We tried to push players in the second half, but they’ve got a strong back line and an outstanding left (defensive) back,” said the Clay coach. “They scored one goal in the second half and reverted to our style of play, which is kick and run and got away from their possession and passing game. So that’s a credit to us, basically forcing them into our game for the second half. That’s something to build on from tonight.”
But the Panthers need to put Thursday out of their minds and rather quickly, because another mammoth SOC I affair awaits at Valley on Tuesday.
“We’ll try to make some noise at Valley. Another SOC I showdown against a great, well-coached team,” said Ledingham. “We’ll be ready to go there and compete.”
* * *
St. Joseph 3 1 — 4
Clay 0 0 — 0
ISJ — Jackson Rowe (Zach Johnson assist), 19:13, 1st (1-0 ISJ)
ISJ — J.C. Damron (Bryce Balestra assist), 8:43, 1st (2-0 ISJ)
ISJ — Jackson Rowe (Zach Johnson assist), 2:52 1st (3-0 ISJ)
ISJ — Jackson Rowe (Dru Canter assist), 17:27, 2nd (4-0 ISJ)
SHOTS — St. Joseph 24, Clay 21
SHOTS ON GOAL —St. Joseph 17, Clay 12
SAVES — St. Joseph 12 (Jimmy Mahlmeister 12), Clay 13 (Shaden Malone 4, Noah Wright 9)
CORNER KICKS — St. Joseph 9, Clay 2
FOULS — St. Joseph 7, Clay 5
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