McDERMOTT — For the Valley Indians, there was simply no need to deter from their gameplan.
Instead, they shook the Northwest Mohawks completely out of theirs.
In the vast majority of its matches this season, the Indian offense was one of an attacking style — defined by several shot attempts and shots on goal.
Most times, simply put, it was just a matter of making them.
On Wednesday, in a Division III boys soccer sectional championship tilt at Northwest’s Roy Rogers Field, the Indians enjoyed most of their evening in the Mohawks’ defensive third —and truly made it count in the form of three first-half goals.
In fact, the ninth-seeded Indians amounted two markers within two minutes and 15 seconds of each other, and all three within seven minutes and seven seconds —en route to capturing their fourth consecutive sectional title with a 4-1 win over eighth-seeded Northwest.
The Indians amassed 11 first-half shots and 15 more in the second, and basically bombarded Northwest senior goalkeeper Grant Robinson all evening.
While a pair of its excellent opportunities went awry early on, Valley’s persistence paid off — as it has in several of its nine victories this fall.
“We’re really happy. This sectional is a good accomplishment because this is an outstanding group of kids and they work really hard,” said Valley coach Andy Johnson. “It’s a really good accomplishment for our three seniors — A.J. (Johnson), Wesley (Holbrook) and Jared (Gahm). I’m really proud of them.”
When the Indians got those two quick goals, and tacked on their third for good measure, it was easily obvious that the young Mohawks —starting seven freshmen or sophomores —felt deflated.
“We kind of started slow and got in that back-and-forth game. We wanted to have better possession, and finally about 20 minutes in, we settled down and started possessing the ball and getting some good crosses. Then we had those two quick goals which really helped things out,” added Johnson. “We talked all week about swinging the ball and finally we started doing it. If we move the ball well, we can attack and we are much better offensively.”
With the win, the Indians improved to 9-5-3 and — more importantly — advanced to their fourth straight district semifinal, and second in a row against Wheelersburg.
The undefeated and untied Pirates, the top-seeded squad in the entire Division III Southeast District, pitched a 17-0 shutout on Piketon in another sectional final on Wednesday.
While Wheelersburg was expected to roll past Piketon, the Indians-Mohawks matchup had most observers predicting a low-scoring affair —even possibly going into overtime or a penalty-kicks shootout.
Valley needed just three goals and seven minutes and seven seconds before halftime to end those ideas.
Bryce Stuart scored first off a Davey Petry assist with 12:54 remaining, then two minutes and 15 tics later —before you could even blink —Austin Sommers scored with J.R. Holbrook hitting up the helper.
Trailing suddenly 2-0, the defensive-oriented and low-scoring Mohawks had the proverbial eight-ball placed smack dab in front of them.
“We had to keep the score low and with our style of play, if we get down two or more goals, we’re going to have trouble,” said Northwest coach Josh Keeney. “They just broke us down defensively backside on that first one. We had a guy hesitate and they made us pay for it. Then we got our heads down and next thing you know, it’s 2-0. We are a total defensive team, and we don’t have that one guy who can offensively take over the game. We had to move some guys around to try and get some offense going. It shook us all up and took us all out of our gameplan. It was trouble once it was 2-0.”
It was worse for Northwest, and even better for Valley, when it became 3-0 with five minutes and 47 seconds before halftime.
That’s when Chase Ruby poked in a point-blank shot, as Stuart secured the assist.
“That was big getting that third goal right before halftime. We felt good going into it,” said Johnson.
Valley made it 4-0 when Sommers scored again —an unassisted marker exactly 40 minutes after his first and with 10:36 remaining.
But Johnson said the Indians’ defense did its job as well, as evidenced by no goals during any of the in-run action.
Wesley Holbrook was credited with nine saves, as Northwest averted the shutout on a set piece shot — a direct kick by Brycen Carver with 5:41 to play.
“Defensively, I thought our kids played really well. We covered and we didn’t let many balls get behind us,” said Johnson. “Our back line, for the most part, handled it.”
Meanwhile, the Mohawks’ youngsters — and their six seniors of which five played on Wednesday — were shell-shocked by the 3-0 halftime deficit.
Northwest concludes its season at 6-5-5, as it regularly started four freshmen and three sophomores.
“We’re young, but it’s not an excuse. Valley just outplayed us, out-hustled us, and just wanted it more than we did. That’s basically what it came down to,” said Keeney. “We played pretty well all year, but didn’t play well tonight. Valley took us out of our gameplan in the first 10 or 15 minutes and that’s all it took.”
And, for the Indians, usually all it takes —as they often produce so many shots —is one or two goals getting them going.
Although, it likely will take much more than that against the powerhouse Pirates on Saturday.
In fact, Wheelersburg won 5-0 over visiting Valley in the two teams’ regular-season bout on Sept. 10.
But Johnson believes his charges are playing much better soccer at this juncture than they were say six weeks ago.
“We know what they (Pirates) are and we will prepare for them,” said the coach. “I think we have a group that can certainly compete, and we’re going to give them our best shot.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s district semifinal inside Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg will be bright and early at 11 a.m.
* * *
Valley 3 1 —4
Northwest 0 1 — 1
V — Bryce Stuart (Davey Petry assist), 12:54, 1st (1-0 V)
V — Austin Sommers (J.R. Holbrook assist), 10:39, 1st (2-0 V)
V — Chase Ruby (Bryce Stuart assist), 5:47, 1st (3-0 V)
V — Austin Sommers (unassisted), 10:36, 2nd (4-0 V)
N — Brycen Carver (direct kick), 5:41, 2nd (4-1 V)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved