MINFORD — With time ticking away on Thursday night, and like the basketball standout he most certainly is, Minford’s Myles Montgomery made sure he dribbled out the proverbial soccer clock — taking the ball directly to the corner not once but twice.
Only earlier, the three-sport scoring machine Montgomery made his largest impact on the Falcons’ key Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt —rallying the hosts for two unassisted goals in a span of 22 minutes.
The end result, for a second time this season against the tough-minded Northwest Mohawks, the Falcons erased a 1-0 deficit —coming from behind for another 2-1 win, inside the friendly confines of the Falcons’ Nest and on the brand-spanking new Bermuda pitch.
That’s correct, the speedy sophomore Montgomery —a forward for soccer, a placekicker for football and a shooting guard for basketball —looked like a point guard dribbling the ball, and against the chasing Mohawks in the final moments.
It is soccer’s answer to victory in hand, and an important one for the Falcons — in keeping pace with Wheelersburg in the SOC II championship chase.
The defending division champion Falcons, also 2-1 comeback winners over Northwest on Aug. 30, raised their record to 8-1-1 —and 4-1-1 in the SOC II.
Ten days ago, Minford and Wheelersburg played to a 4-4 tie at the Falcons’ Nest, but the Falcons remain a game back of the Pirates (6-0-1 SOC II) for the league lead —thanks to their 1-0 home loss against South Webster.
The Mohawks, which could have made the race even more interesting with a Thursday night triumph, are now 8-3-0 and 4-3-0 — as Minford made it a sweep, while Wheelersburg defeated Northwest 2-0 in Roy Rogers Country three weeks ago.
But the Mohawks made the Falcons work, despite taking 21 shots to Northwest’s 12 —including a dozen on goal to the Mohawks’ eight.
Minford finally forged ahead with 20-and-a-half minutes left, and withstood some chances by the Mohawks, including Caleb Lewis’ lineshot of a direct kick with four minutes to play —awarded after the Falcons’ Dylan Brooks was whistled with a yellow card.
Minford second-year head coach Jacob Hackworth said his charges have trailed in matches this season, but aside from South Webster, have always rallied back.
“We’ve been down a few times this year, but it’s never been about why somebody did this or somebody didn’t do that. It’s get your head up, let’s work together, it’s one goal, and we’ve been able to overcome it,” said Hackworth. “Every match going forward, for the league, for (Division III tournament) seeding, it’s must-win. If we win out, we can win at least a share (of SOC II title), no matter what happens with Wheelersburg. Just proud of my guys, never giving up and always hustling and giving effort. And congrats to Myles on those two goals tonight. He works hard and it’s well-deserving.”
Montgomery’s hustle for the Falcons’ first goal tied it at 1-1 —making Northwest’s lead off Lewis’ goal and Levi Bruch’s assist on a running carom from a long-range free kick short-lived.
Montgomery first had the Falcons’ first corner kick only a minute and 10 tics earlier, but he found himself in a one-on-one with Northwest goalkeeper Logan Shepherd — who was caught pulled up in the goalbox.
A hustling Montgomery beat Shepherd to the ball and he poked it into the twine, despite Northwest coach Josh Keeney vehemently arguing that Montgomery should have been called offsides.
“I can’t be 100-percent sure, but it looked like when their guy took a shot that Myles was about a yard offsides when he got the ball inside and scored. But that’s part of the game,” said Keeney. “It’s going to happen. Going to happen for us and them, it’s just part of it. But it was a big momentum change. We let Myles get inside us and we all know how good he is. Obviously, in a game like this, one goal is huge.”
Indeed, that goal stood, and the Falcons found the spark they were needing — after opportunities went awry up until that point.
“Myles isn’t the fastest player on the field, but he will hustle and he is so quick with that good first step. And he’s just so strong,” said Hackworth. “I thought that run he made, he shouldered a kid and he got the tap-in. That’s just a good hustle goal, man. It got us the energy back too. It lifted us up and carried us into that second half.”
Montgomery had some earlier opportunities which Shepherd saved or sailed high or wide, as Luke Rader clanged one off the left post only two minutes and seven seconds in — before narrowly missing just left only 43 seconds later.
Hackworth said his Falcons finding the net has been an issue at times.
“We had several good looks. I think we hit a post three times,” he said. “We’ve struggled at times this year to put the ball in the net. We’ve hit the posts, we’ve had near-misses. Their keeper made three really, really good saves that a lot of teams don’t make. If we make those, now we’re talking a 5-1 type of game.”
Instead, Shepherd saved 10 Falcon shots, but the one he wishes he could have made turned it a 2-1 tally with 20:31 to go.
Montgomery took two or three dribbles, one-timed the shot, and rocketed it into the upper-right 90 which a leaping-high Shepherd could not corral.
“That was just a good shot. Good on good. A good play,” said Hackworth.
Keeney said Jay Jenkins had a similar shot for his unit on the other end only a possession previously, before Montgomery made his blast for the 2-1 edge.
“Momentum turned again there. Jay had a shot here on this end and he missed it, then it goes right back up to Myles on the opposite side same exact shot. He just buried it,” said the coach. “That’s just good soccer.”
Through the opening half of the second half, Northwest was the aggressor at Minford goalkeeper Cole Borland, who collected seven saves — including one on a Lewis rip only a minute and 21 seconds in.
A minute apart, between the 21:55 and 20:55 marks, Lewis sailed one high from left to right, while Jenkins’ aforementioned miss tailed in the same direction —just a tad bit lower.
Lewis’ last-chance kick resulting from the yellow card was the Mohawks’ last-best pure look at an equalizer.
“I thought the kids came out and played strong in the second half. We’ve improved a ton since we played Minford the last time. To be honest with you, they outplayed us the entire time, we just played defense the entire match at home. This was more of a 50-50 and back-and-forth. We had way more shots and opportunities than we did the first time. That’s big a step for us. I felt like we played 80 minutes hard and I was proud of them win or lose,” said Keeney. “Minford is a lot deeper than we are too. I’m basically running 11 guys, and I didn’t substitute until six minutes left in the game, It takes a toll on you against teams like this.”
But Borland — who hadn’t played high school soccer before this campaign — was equally up to the defensive challenge as was Shepherd.
Of course, playing defense in soccer is certainly a team-centered concept.
“With our defense, we expect this. We brought back three starters and we added six-foot-five with blazing speed back there Luke Oakes (at sweeper). We expect to not give up goals, and Cole (Borland) is learning every game,” said Hackworth. “He is catching up, but he is so athletic. He works so hard and pays attention.”
Speaking of such, as the SOC II second half races along, clubs need to be mindful of the Mohawks.
“I told the kids we’re right there with the top teams in the (Division III) district. Any of the top four (in SOC II) can win on any night,” said Keeney. “We’ve lost our three matches by two goals or less, to the top two teams right now in the league. Minford is a good team, and any time you can play right with them, you have to feel good about that.”
The Falcons, of course, felt good about Montgomery getting those two goals —and likely felt great about him dribbling out the clock.
“It’s another good team win,” said Hackworth. “Myles gets two goals, but it takes everybody listening, hustling and communicating and doing what they’re supposed to be doing offensively and defensively to make it happen.”
* * *
Northwest 1 0 —1
Minford 1 1 —2
N —Caleb Lewis (Levi Bruch assist), 9:13, 1st (1-0 N)
M — Myles Montgomery (unassisted), 2:33, 1st (1-1 tie)
M —Myles Montgomery (unassisted), 20:31, 2nd (2-1 M)
SHOTS —Northwest 12 (8 on goal), Minford 21 (12 on goal)
SAVES —Northwest 10 (Logan Shepherd), Minford 7 (Cole Borland)
CORNER KICKS —Northwest 1, Minford 3
FOULS —Northwest 6, Minford 7
YELLOW CARDS —Dylan Brooks, Minford, 4:03, 2nd
RED CARDS —none