MINFORD — Simply put, for the Minford Falcons, it’s an SOC II Perfect 10.
That’s because the Falcons finished off on Thursday night an unblemished Southern Ohio Conference Division II gauntlet —by completing the season sweep of Wheelersburg with a 3-1 victory in the regular-season finale inside the Falcons’ Nest.
That’s correct mighty Minford Falcons fans —10 up and 10 down in the division, and in head coach and alum Jacob Hackworth’s first year.
Minford, whose only loss was against Athens 10 days ago by a 2-1 count, mastered its regular-season schedule to the mark of 15-1-0.
While the Falcons were already outright SOC II champions prior to Thursday night’s finale —thanks to South Webster winning at Wheelersburg 2-1 on Saturday —they wanted to make it a Perfect 10 in the league.
They did just that, scoring the match’s first three goals —including two within a six-minute span approaching the midway point of the opening half.
Adam Crank, who missed the Athens match with an Achilles’ injury, cranked in the third Falcon tally only six minutes and 46 seconds into the second half —and the 3-0 lead looked really good from there.
While Wheelersburg scored its only goal by Braxton Rase with 28 minutes remaining, the Pirates —the two-time defending champions and winners of four of the last six SOC II titles —couldn’t cut into that 3-1 deficit.
And from there, there was a whole lot of celebration inside the Falcons’ Nest —which included several team photos, and not to mention Hackworth receiving a downright ice cold water cooler bath during his postmatch media interview.
The (SOC II) championship is Minford’s first for boys soccer since 2014 —with the others occurring in 1985, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2008.
Indeed, for the Falcons, a league championship in soccer seemed like long time a-coming.
To go undefeated and untied is even more difficult to achieve.
“I’m super excited for the players, the community and the school. Going 10-0 in the league is really hard to do. No ties and no losses. It doesn’t happen a lot and when it does, those are special teams like Wheelersburg (Division III state semifinalist) was last year,” said Hackworth. “Hopefully, everything goes good, we get healthy and make ourselves a deep tournament run.”
On Thursday, as it has been most of the season, the Falcons found two goals quickly.
Myles Montgomery managed the first just six-and-a-half minutes in, and then Crank assisted Charlie Neal off a throw-in —only five minutes and 16 tics later.
“We’re always trying to get a fast start. Any team will say if you get a goal early, it swings the momentum and maybe changes the other team’s tactics. We were able to get two goals and got the momentum going our way,” said Hackworth. “Myles (Montgomery) has been a great player for us. Only a freshman, so we’re excited about him. He always hustles, has more heart than anybody, and he is good player for us for sure. Charlie (Neal) is a center-back for us, but we really have high hopes for him getting in on set plays and corner kicks and throw-ins. He is 6-1 or 6-2, is good in the air, and is really aggressive. He was in the right spot at the right time.”
Crank, coming back from the Achilles’ injury suffered at Waverly, increased his minutes from 20 against Rock Hill on Monday night to an estimated 40 against Wheelersburg on Thursday.
He got a goal — and per Hackworth a “confidence boost” as a result.
Then there’s the Falcons’ three seniors —scoring forward Zane Miller, Jacob Lewis, and first-year goalkeeper Levi Coriell.
Coriell stopped six Wheelersburg shots, while Lewis made two dramatic and out-of-nowhere non-keeper saves in the second half.
“Oh my gosh. Levi (Coriell) has been great. He is learning something new about the game every day. He comes to practice wanting to learn, full of energy and focus. He is a hard-working kid that wants to do well, and that’s the result on the field. Then Jacob Lewis, I don’t know where he had his hole dug at out here, but he popped out at the right time and made two great saves,” said Hackworth.
While Miller is the squad’s scoring leader, his leadership and drawing extra attention in recent weeks means more opportunities for other Falcons to score.
“Zane is just a top-notch energy guy. He puts pressure on your back line and every team is worried about him. I think that’s what’s opened up other people for goals. Zane draws so much attention and hasn’t scored as much lately, but he is being man-marked and drawing double teams. That’s why we’re getting Myles (Montgomery) and Adam (Crank) and other people involved in the scoring,” said Hackworth. “When we were scoring so many goals, other coaches had to adapt and make changes. Now teams are setting back on us more and making it tougher, but that has taken away from their offense and end result, we’re getting clean sheets and limiting other teams’ shots.”
Speaking of clean, it indeed was a clean sweep, or a Perfect 10, for the Falcons in the SOC II —as the newest part of their dream season starts on Thursday night, with the Division III sectional championship match.
“It’s been a dream to come back home. I knew we would be pretty solid and compete for the league championship, but I didn’t expect this. But once we got going, and I saw the heart of these kids, I knew what was attainable then. We’re just checking off goals off our list,” said the coach. “We wanted the league, we wanted the number-one seed, we want to win a district championship, we want to go to the regionals. So keep track, we’re pushing.”
The top-seeded Falcons face the winner of Tuesday’s sectional semifinal bout —between 17th-seeded Eastern Brown and 16th-seeded New Boston.
All first touches for sectional tournament matches are set for 5 p.m.
* * *
Wheelersburg 0 1 —1
Minford 2 1 — 3
M — Myles Montgomery (unassisted), 33:30, 1st (1-0 M)
M — Charlie Neal (Adam Crank assist), 28:14, 1st (2-0 M)
M — Adam Crank (unassisted), 33:14, 2nd (3-0 M)
W — Braxton Rase (Jackson Schwamburger assist), 27:53, 2nd (3-1 M)
SHOTS — Wheelersburg 15, Minford 21
SHOTS ON GOAL — Wheelersburg 8, Minford 9
SAVES —Wheelersburg 6 (Gavin Rase 3, Jeremiah Stratton 3), Minford 8 (Levi Coriell 6, Jacob Lewis 2)
CORNER KICKS — Wheelersburg 5, Minford 4
FOULS —Wheelersburg 7, Minford 10
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved