NEW BOSTON — Whether it was a cross-pass from sophomote teammate Luke Rader, or a set-piece pass from senior Skyler Knore, Minford junior Zane Miller just seemed to be in the right places at the right times on Tuesday.
After dropping their first contest of the season five days ago — a 2-1 road loss to South Webster — the Falcons (4-1-1) bounced back with a 3-1 non-league road win over New Boston (1-6-1) on Tuesday.
In a match where Miller made the most of his scoring opportunities, the junior forward netted his first career hat trick at the high school level.
Rader’s cross pass to Miller which set up the Falcons’ first goal pushed Minford ahead of the Tigers 1-0 in the 17th minute of the first half.
Just six minutes later on a free-kick pass by Knore, Minford’s senior captain, Miller again found the back of the net — pushing the ball past New Boston goalkeeper Brady Voiers for the second time in the first 40 minutes.
“He found the right positions, we had some really good assists to him — but he finished very well,” Minford coach Dave Gampp said of Miller. “A left-foot volley on his second goal, the first one was a quick turn. At Webster he was kind of reaching out, tonight he went through it a little better and was able to get a good hit on it.”
New Boston managed to take hold of the game’s momentum to start the second half — after just one shot on goal in the first.
In the fifth minute of the second half, senior Tanner Voiers broke a Tigers’ two-game scoring drought by heading a ball past Falcons goalkeeper Levi Coriell on a throw-in assist by fellow senior Kyle Sexton — cutting Minford’s lead to 2-1 with the majority of the second half still to play.
New Boston head coach Greg Mauk said he felt as if the Voiers goal to begin the second-half scoring gave his team a much-needed morale boost — following a scoreless skid in losses last week to the top team in the SOC I race, Ironton St. Joe.
“I think that goal gave our team a lot of energy, because we haven’t seen a goal go in for awhile now,” Mauk said. “We’ve been getting shut out in our recent games, so seeing that goal go in I think our team said, ‘Okay, we can do this’. I saw the energy level raise and we believed in each other even more after that goal.”
Knowing that now one goal ties the game, Minford went back on the offensive following the Voiers goal.
In the second half’s 12th minute, freshman Sam Tieman assisted Miller’s third goal, putting the Falcons back ahead of their hosts by two scores at 3-1 — and giving Miller his first hat trick of the 2020 season.
“We possessed the ball well. It was a little bit slow of a turf, but we adjusted well early on,” Gampp said. “We made some good passes, Zane (Miller) had some good turns in shots that went in. We’ve had those shots before and sometimes they don’t go in, but tonight they went in early. We got a little bit scrambled there in the second half and gave them some more chances than I’d like to see, but all in all we played really good, stepped up and played hard.”
New Boston would attempt four shots, three on goal in the second half, but were unable to again break through in the scoring column.
For Mauk, though, seeing his team’s effort to dig into the Falcons — a team likely to finish in the top half of the SOC II race — is a promising start for what he hopes the Tigers will be able to accomplish during the season’s second half.
“I think the main thing is not getting down when things don’t go our way,” Mauk said. “I saw today that we just kept playing. We didn’t hang our heads after they scored one or two, we just kept fighting. If we keep that mentality, then I think we can play with anybody. We’re going to continue to try and cut out the mistakes, continue to play hard, and I believe we can make a run here for the second half of the season.”
For Minford, the most important thing going into Tuesday’s game versus New Boston was getting back into the winning column.
Now that they’ve done that, Gampp says the most important thing moving forward for the Falcons is continuing to play their brand of soccer while other teams may try and force their hand with a different play style.
With undefeated Wheelersburg (7-0-0) coming to their home field on Thursday for an important SOC II match and Rock Hill, one of the favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference race, coming to town on Monday — those areas of focus will be amplified 10-fold at this key juncture in Minford’s season.
“Just keeping ball control and keeping our heads,” Gampp said. “If we play our type of soccer, we’re really good. When we start letting other teams dictate the way we play, we kind of have troubles with that. My kids know how to play soccer well — they know how to move the ball, know how to get the spacing. We just sometimes get a little rattled and get away from it, but if we keep those things I think we can compete with anybody.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved