WHEELERSBURG — With Wheelersburg’s boys soccer roster regularly stocked with plenty of talent, it could easily be assumed that Jacob Saxby might get lost in the proverbial shuffle.
Well, not so —and, in fact, Saxby’s rewarding role now has him bound for the collegiate level.
That’s because Saxby, late last week, officially announced his intention to play soccer for Defiance College —located in Defiance in Ohio’s northwest corner, and a member of the NCAA Division III’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Saxby, with 29 career goals and 31 career assists with Wheelersburg, was a four-year Pirate standout —having played in the tradition-rich and proud Pirate program for four years of high school.
Saxby demonstrated versatility yet primarily played wing, but also saw several midfielder minutes —and even some striker action as well.
Saxby said he chose Defiance over other Ohio programs —including Ohio Northern, Bluffton, Heidelberg, Malone, Muskingum, Mount Union and Wittenberg.
“All those schools shown a distinct interest in me, but despite all those, Defiance was the only place that felt like a second home,” said Saxby, in an e-mail response to interview questions. “Ever since I stepped foot on campus there, it felt like a similar atmosphere (to Wheelersburg). The fact that it’s a small college, and has such a tight-knit community, felt very similar to what I feel like at Burg.”
Saxby seemed intrigued as well with Defiance head coach Cory Bucur, “emphasizing how his freshmen, from the ‘get go’, compete for a starting spot.”
“The guys on the team were also welcoming and open to getting to know the new players that show up, and that made me feel even more comfortable,” he said.
Saxby, in conversations with Bucur, said he is most likely to man a wing position —or as a midfielder behind the primary forward.
Bucur, himself, followed a similar path from high school to the collegiate playing field.
“During one of my very first conversations with him, he explained how he came from a small Division III high school just like Wheelersburg and how he implements a Division II-style program, since he played for Lake Erie College. That similarity and what I am used to at Burg really drove me to consider looking into Defiance,” said Saxby. “For me personally, I believe I can play any position. My skills of recognizing the game and playmaking are what separates me from the rest, so the positions that allow me to shift the point of play and attack directly at defenders would most fit me the best.”
For his first three Pirate seasons, Saxby was often a “Robin” to Aaron Jolly as “Batman”.
Jolly, now excelling at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, is the Pirates’ all-time career goal scorer —at 118.
But the tall, lanky and light-haired winger went about his business, and assisted on many a holly Jolly goal.
Wheelersburg veteran coach Jon Estep explained Saxby’s love for the sport.
“When Jacob came to Wheelersburg his freshman year, we quickly knew we were getting a young man that loved the game of soccer. He knew some of players through club teams, so he was able to get comfortable quicker than most. He has been a four-year starter that found various ways to impact our team each season whether as a secondary scorer or primary distributor of the ball. He had a great connection with Aaron Jolly to get him the ball in position to score,” said the coach. “He was the type of player that made those around him better with his understanding and soccer IQ.”
As a junior, Saxby and the Pirates —headlined by Jolly’s offensive onslaught and their airtight defensive unit — captured the school’s first-ever regional championship in soccer, and lost only once in 22 total matches.
The lone defeat was in the Division III state semifinals to Cincinnati Mariemont —the 2020 state champion.
The 2021 Pirates prevailed over Valley 2-1 in the Division III district championship match —marking a return to the regional as Saxby’s role changed somewhat.
“As a senior, he took on a different role for us and found various ways to continue to make an impact on our team and help us win matches,” added Estep. “Jacob has impacted our program both on and off the field with his play, high character, great student-athlete, passion for the game, and love for his teammates.”
Saxby described in his own words his four years in Pirate Country —and Ed Miller Stadium.
“I have only been a Wheelersburg Pirate for four years, but it feels like much longer with all of the experiences I have had with this program. I have been a four-year varsity starter, a captain, all-conference (Southern Ohio Conference Division II), and even an all-district (Southeast District) player throughout my career here. Being able to play with such talented and motivated teammates really pushed me to decide to further my athletic career. The success we had and the joy of being a part of these teams over the years has felt surreal. Nobody really expects a southern Ohio team to hold much talent, but we have had it for many years. It just took a group to be able to consider each other as brothers to accomplish it. Each year, this soccer team feels like a second family, and I am so glad I transferred to experience this. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Each person on the team deserves credit for the accomplishments we have had and I feel like the coaches emphasize this really well.”
Saxby said the Defiance program is indeed on the upswing —as he intends to fit right in with the Yellowjackets.
“My expectations and goals at Defiance would be to continue the recent success the program has seen and push that even further. Just last year, it had the most successful season it has had in over a decade. They upset the number-one seeded team and made it to the championship game with three players making the all-conference team. Personally, I want to lift that trophy with a Yellowjacket jersey and be one of those recognized players in the all-conference team,” he said. “I feel like my past experiences and the winning mentality of the Burg program will drive me to help push Defiance in the direction it’s correctly headed. That’s straight to the top. And I would like to thank Coach Bucur for the opportunity to continue to play competitively for the next four years.”
Saxby, the son of Richard and Lisa Saxby, said he plans on majoring in Business —and specifically Marketing.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved