SPRINGFIELD — It’s quite possible that once Saturday has come and gone, the Wheelersburg Pirates boys soccer team will have had their 2020 dream run ended by the eventual Division III state champion.
In an impressive display of corner-kick execution and speed, still-unbeaten Cincinnati Mariemont (22-0-0) handed the Pirates (21-1-0) their first and only loss this season — a 5-0 defeat in a Division III state semifinal played at Springfield High School, just north of Dayton.
Facing a halftime deficit in their third straight contest, this time by a 2-0 margin, Wheelersburg was no stranger in attempting a come-from-behind victory that would have advanced its season.
Attempting to get on the board in the first portion of the second half, and try and halt the Warriors’ momentum, was a message of importance from Pirates coach Jon Estep during the halftime break.
“Same message it has been the last couple of games where we’ve been down at half. We wanted to bring out some energy and get after it, knowing one goal could change the momentum of the game,” Estep said. “First seven or eight minutes of the second had back-to-back corners and weren’t able to capitalize.”
Mariemont’s two first-half goals which gave it the two-score advantage came by the way of corner-kick assist to a goal-scoring Warrior near Pirates’ senior goalkeeper Eric Green.
Warriors’ junior Evan Farrell netted their first goal at the 30-minute mark of the first half — on an assist by Luke Brothers.
With 17:26 left in the first half, Mariemont junior Boden Gall made it 2-0 on a header assisted by Brothers — the Warriors’ corner-kick specialist.
The next two Mariemont scores also came via corner-kick connection — as senior Kyle Croll twice found the back of the net in a five-minute span.
The Warriors’ lone non corner-kick connection score came on a rebounded ball to senior Chase Hollander who, at the right place and right time, finished with precision with just 8:20 left in the contest.
“We knew they were fast, but film doesn’t simulate once you get on the field,” Estep said. “Once they got on the field you could see how fast they were. One thing you can’t account for is speed. Their ability to control the ball and constantly put pressure on us put us on our heels a lot.”
In total, Wheelersburg attempted four shots to Mariemont’s 33.
Still, the Pirates kept Mariemont scoreless from non-corner kick set-up scores for over 70 minutes — until Hollander’s and the game’s final goal.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a team from the Southern Ohio Conference could say its season was ended by the eventual state champion, as South Webster ended its 2019 season in a Division III regional final loss — to state champion The Wellington School (Columbus) by the same margin.
Wheelersburg will graduate a total of eight seniors, a lot of goals, and the team’s senior goalkeeper from their 2020 roster into next season.
Pirates’ career-scoring leader Aaron Jolly and SOC II Defensive Player of the Year Green — as well as fellow seniors Lane Jordan, Aidan Wright, Logan Davis, Bryson Billiter, Carter McCorkle and Elias Robson — each concluded their high school careers on the Springfield High School turf at a point where no other Wheelersburg soccer team had reached before.
Since the beginning of their sophomore season, Wheelersburg has won three consecutive Southern Ohio Conference Division II championships, reached three straight Division III district finals, and posted — by most measures — the best season in school history to leave behind a more-than-lasting legacy.
“It has unreal what this senior class has done for us,” Estep said. “This team’s done something no other has for our program by getting here, and it’s all because of the work and effort they’ve brought to this program and what they’ve established over the last four years.”
Mariemont will face Youngstown Cardinal Mooney for the Division III state championship on Saturday (Nov. 14) at MAPFRE Stadium — home of the Columbus Crew.
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