MINFORD — With something having to give on Monday night in the Lucasville-Minford Road Rivalry soccer style, the Minford Falcons — falling rain levels light to mere moderate and all — found the quick lightning strike.
Actually, it was twice in fact for the Falcons — in the opening eight minutes and 21 seconds.
Later on, at the tail end of the opening half of the opening half, the Falcons finished for a third goal —and with the slickening surface at the Minford High School soccer pitch, the visiting Valley Indians had to feel like a victim of quicksand.
That’s because the Falcons, in a battle of undefeateds and respective Southern Ohio Conference division leaders, threw a 3-0 shutout at the Indians —in front of a good, full and spirited crowd inside the Falcons’ Nest.
In a much-anticipated road rivalry match, Minford —alone atop the SOC II thanks to its dramatic 2-1 win at Wheelersburg a week ago — moved to a perfect 8-0-0, while the SOC-I leading Indians are now 6-1-0.
Monday might not be the only meeting of the two this season —as both should draw high seeds in the Southeast District Division III tournament.
But that’s down the road, as it was all about Lucasville-Minford Road on this night.
And, a flyaway win for the Falcons —following up on their colossal and late triumph at Wheelersburg.
“This is a huge win for us and great momentum. Just proud of the effort,” said first-year Minford coach Jacob Hackworth. “Getting them down 3-0, that changed their tactics. Instead of keeping the ball, they tried to play more direct and started kicking the ball longer. We kept the pressure and intensity up all game.”
The Falcons, with the friendly confines of the natural grass as their home pitch advantage, got two goals by senior forward Zane Miller — and a goal and an assist from Adam Crank.
Crank ripped in a free kick only six minutes in, and Miller muscled a penalty kick past Valley goalkeeper Chris Queen a mere two minutes and 20 seconds later.
Before you could truly settle yourself down, Minford made it 2-0 —as both coaches commented on those lightning-quick goals.
For Miller’s PK, Myles Montgomery —fresh from his game-winning football field goal for the Falcons on Saturday night at East Clinton —managed to draw his fourth penalty-kick of the season, getting fouled inside the goal box.
“We’ve been on our guys about starting out fast. We got a free kick, kind of a scouting report thing with their keeper being very aggressive. I told Adam (Crank) to test them early, and he hit one of the best free kicks I’ve ever seen. Just a really good shot by him. Then once again, Myles just in there playing hard and drawing a PK. He is a monster and just plays so hard and aggressive, puts his body all out there for all 80 minutes,” said Hackworth.
Valley first-year head coach Jacob Perry said the 2-0 deficit sucked any early energy right out of the Indians —as the rainfall turned from sprinkles to slight.
”It’s never good going down that early on in the game. It just feels like you are constantly playing from behind. Any energy a team comes out with and soon as it goes down 2-0, it’s hard to fight back,” he said. “Our guys eventually did well to fight back, but it’s like a kick in the shin right off the bat. The rest of the half, every time you turn around to look at the time, all you see is 2-0.”
That is, until, the Indians saw 3-0 with 21 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the first half.
That’s when Crank crossed to Miller, who made it another multi-goal game with his second marker.
The Falcons, of course, utilized their home pitch advantage — as Valley’s surface on The Reservation is pure FieldTurf.
Combine that with the field getting wetter — and slicker — by the minute, and Indians’ goals and a valiant comeback bid would be hard to come by.
“We practiced on grass this week as much as we could, trying to get used to it. Thick grass, thin grass, but didn’t practice on wet grass,” said Perry. “It’s one of those things that favors them, but both teams have to do it. At some point, it no longer becomes an outlier anymore, and it is a level playing field. I think right towards the end, we got used to it somewhat. But it was too little too late.”
“Valley is so used to the turf, and I know they practice on grass some for the other SOC I teams, but turf to grass is a big advantage for us,” said Hackworth. “We knew their first touch was going to be suspect. The third goal, we got a turnover off a bad touch, and that’s how we transitioned into it.”
Indeed, Crank, Miller and the Minford defense turned that turnover into a commanding 3-0 advantage.
“That was like a dagger to the heart. The energy was there, but placing it in the right spots was lacking. We couldn’t get anything going and we were playing sporadic,” said Perry. “Going down 3-0 changes things you focus on, changes the gameplan obviously.”
Valley did have seven shots on goal at Minford senior keeper Levi Coriell, but Coriell kept the Indians out of the net —and the Falcons in good shape on that end.
His seven saves were the first-year netminder’s career high, as Minford slightly outshot Valley on goal — 9-7.
“Levi was hands down the man of the match for us,” said Hackworth. “He played great and is getting better with every game.”
In addition to outshooting the Indians 16-12, Minford recorded four first-half corner kicks compared to none for Valley —as the frustrated Indians, all told, were whistled for 18 fouls to the Falcons’ 10.
Valley also drew two second-half yellow cards, as the physical Falcons sent several Indians to the ground in battling for 50-50 balls —including Valley standout junior wing Lucie Ashkettle.
“These are two of the best SOC teams, and this is how it is supposed to be. It’s physical, but it’s not dirty in any way,” said Hackworth. “Both teams playing hard are going to draw fouls and probably are going to get yellow cards.”
“Minford is a team of athletes. They are all physical and all know how to play. Knowing their coach (Hackworth), that’s exactly what I would expect,” said Perry. “Nothing was malicious or anything like that, it’s just good physical soccer. That’s a style we enjoy to play.”
Although, this outcome wasn’t enjoyable for the Indians, which returned to SOC I action on Tuesday against New Boston.
Valley now returns home, and returns to SOC I play again, on Thursday against Western.
Perry said his Indians should use Monday night’s defeat for fuel for the remainder of the season.
“We played a good team tonight. We will play good teams later on in the year. Remembering what tonight feels like is very important for our guys going forward, and using that as motivation so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Minford, meanwhile, moves back into SOC II play on Thursday at Northwest.
Although, Hackworth cautioned his undefeated Falcons —now halfway through their regular season — about complacency.
“Our last four games, we’ve beaten four of the top six or seven teams in the area. We’re halfway through, but tomorrow at practice, we come right back like it’s day one,” he said. “I need that same work ethic, same intensity and same drive in the second half of the season which we had in the first.”
* * *
Valley 0 0 —0
Minford 3 0 — 3
M —Adam Crank (free kick), 33:59, 1st (1-0 M)
M — Zane Miller (penalty kick), 31:39, 1st (2-0 M)
M — Zane Miller (Adam Crank assist), 21:54, 1st (3-0 M)
SHOTS — Valley 12, Minford 16
SHOTS ON GOAL — Valley 7, Minford 9
SAVES — Valley 5 (Chris Queen), Minford 7 (Levi Coriell)
YELLOW CARDS — Valley 2, Minford 1
FOULS — Valley 18, Minford 10
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved