Falcons force a share


Minford wins 2-1 at Burg, splits SOC II

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]



Minford’s Myles Montgomery (10) is involved in this header during the Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg on Thursday night.

Minford’s Myles Montgomery (10) is involved in this header during the Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg on Thursday night.


Courtesy of Terry Stevenson of www.burgsports.com

Wheelersburg senior Jackson Schwamburger (10) and Minford’s Ethan Cordle (7) chase down a loose ball during Thursday night’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.


Courtesy of Terry Stevenson of www.burgsports.com

Minford senior goalkeeper Cole Borland makes one of his 15 saves during the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer win over Wheelersburg on Thursday night.


Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

Minford teammates Gavin Downey (left) and Grant Wheeler (right) immediately celebrate the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer victory at Wheelersburg on Thursday night.


Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

WHEELERSBURG — Minford’s Luke Rader did four backflips, Gavin Downey and Grant Wheeler sprinted off the pitch basically side-by-side with their hands high in the air, and second-year Falcons head coach Jacob Hackworth was right smack dab in the middle of a wild mob —but indeed highly celebratory —scene.

That’s right, after basically playing catch-up all throughout the Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer schedule, the Falcons finally caught the nemesis Wheelersburg Pirates —and defeated them to equal them and successfully split the conference championship.

Thanks to Downey’s two “trash pickup” goals, first-year Falcon Cole Borland making 15 fantastic saves playing the pressure-packed goalkeeper position, and the Minford defense not allowing any Pirate points aside from a Max Hagans penalty kick, the Falcons forced a share on Thursday night for the SOC II championship —stunning the host Pirates 2-1 amid a chilled air but electric atmosphere inside Ed Miller Stadium.

Indeed, the Falcons —from falling behind Wheelersburg by one game after a 1-0 home loss against South Webster in September —fought and clawed their way right with the Pirates throughout, including a 4-4 tie in the two teams’ opening meeting a month ago at the Falcons’ Nest.

On Thursday night, that perseverance paid off, as Minford handed the Pirates — which had already clinched at least a share of their 18th all-time SOC championship with a 12-0 shutout win over West on Tuesday, their first defeat of the entire season.

As both squads concluded league play at 8-1-1, Minford moved to a final regular tally of 13-2-1 —losses only against South Webster and at Athens (2-0) a week ago.

“We got in an early hole with the loss to South Webster at home, but our kids really responded well from that loss. It was a wakeup call for us. We were on cloud nine, not thinking we could be beat, winning 22 out of 24 matches. But that South Webster loss is the reason we are here now,” said Hackworth. “It told us what we needed to do, what we needed to work on, and that we needed to come in every match focused. We’ve been able to do that since then. I’m proud of these kids for never quitting all year, never quitting tonight, and we’ll take this. It’s a team win, man.”

So too will Wheelersburg, as after all, a piece of the championship pie is better than being left hungry altogether.

“This match isn’t how we wanted to finish the (regular) season, but all the work we put in throughout the season to get to where we still share the league title, it’s still a lot to be proud of,” said Wheelersburg coach Jon Estep. “You always want to win it outright, but a championship is a championship. They played better than we did tonight, so they earned their half of it. Just like we earned our half. We’re not going to hang our heads. We’re going to be proud of our accomplishments.”

Wheelersburg, which finished the regular season at 13-0-2 with the other tie coming 2-2 at South Point, won the division for three consecutive campaigns (2018, 2019 and 2020) — before Minford swept through all 10 tilts last year in winning it outright.

This was the Falcons’ eighth all-time SOC II soccer title, and their first share —as they last won before last season in 2014.

But, on Thursday night, the Falcons HAD to win to gain the split —and with their backs against the proverbial wall on Ed Miller Stadium’s true turf surface —they withstood 16 Pirate shots on goal, 14 fouls called compared to the Pirates’ four, and an excruciatingly agonizing final 5.5 seconds, which felt much more like five full minutes.

With the Falcons leading 2-1, Minford’s Adam Crank was called for the final of a half-dozen total yellow cards —allowing Wheelersburg a direct kick.

While the officials sorted the situation out, and established Connor Estep’s setup for the free shot, there was plenty of anxiety for the Falcons —fearing the worst if Estep somehow, and someway, missiles that attempt in.

But Estep’s kick sailed into the mad scramble of bodies on the right side of the goal, didn’t go in the net, and instead the frenzied Falcons stormed the pitch in a wild celebration.

Hackworth said his Falcons’ tall back defensive line impacts a lot of shots, and it did so again on Estep’s attempt.

“That’s the strong point of our defense, and the defense is the heart and soul of our team. We have 6-4 or 6-5 Luke Oakes, we have 6-3 or 6-4 Charlie Neal, and Luke Rader is over six-foot tall. Those balls right there, those don’t scare us,” said the coach. “It’s the rebounds, but we got the ball out to safety. Wheelersburg scored five goals on us this year, and only one of those has been during the run of play. We’re very difficult to score on in the run of the play, most of the goals we’ve given up this season are on penalty kicks or whatever.”

In fact, both teams took 20 shots, with Wheelersburg outshooting the Falcons for on-goal attempts 16-11.

“We’re a team that’s always going to get shots, and we felt we had more opportunities than they did and got into the box more, but with their length, it’s hard. There’s things we like to do off long throw-ins and corner kicks, but their length bothers us,” said Coach Estep. “You have to give them credit.”

Borland made 15 saves, several of which were indeed nifty —and all with a degree of difficulty.

Late in the first half, Wheelersburg’s Brody Wilburn rocketed what appeared to be a surefire blast right at Borland, but he dove in midair to his left —and made the textbook two-handed save.

Whether it was going to his knees, or jumping high off both feet and snaring the orb, Borland’s big-time performance was indeed noteworthy.

“Cole has only played soccer for four or five months now,” explained Hackworth. “He’s been learning on the fly, but he stepped up and done a fantastic job.”

The only shot to get by Borland was the Pirate PK by the junior standout forward Hagans, who got the equalizer for the 1-1 tie — with 13 minutes and 15 seconds remaining.

But less than three minutes later, two minutes and 54 seconds to be exact, Downey delivered his second unassisted goal —another backside cleanup effort that resembled somewhat of his first.

Downey got his first goal with only 3:39 before halftime, then his second with 10:21 remaining erased the short-lived tie —and put the Falcons in front for good.

Wheelersburg freshman Breyden Byrd was strong in net as well with nine stops, but Downey —twice —was right there for the rebound ricochet, when the original Minford shot was off.

“We talked about that at halftime. The first goal, we have the primary covered, but a lot of times, it’s about covering the secondary. We didn’t do a good job covering the secondary shot on that” said Estep. “On their second goal, they had a free kick and the ball bounces around and our keeper isn’t able to grab it and we couldn’t clear it out. We had a couple of opportunities to clear it, but we didn’t do it, and Gavin (Downey) was in the right place at the right time. In games like this, that’s what you need.”

Indeed, every team needs that “trash man”.

“Gavin is always right there. I call him ‘Rumpke’, because he is always getting the ‘trash’ goals. But that’s a player who is smart, who hustles and is always in the right spots,” said Hackworth.

And, soccer is also a game of inches, as the Falcons especially hit the posts or crossbar with multiple shots —while Wheelersburg kept Borland busy.

All the way. in fact, until the final 5.5 seconds ticked away, and all the way back for the Falcons — from trailing the Pirates following that South Webster match.

“Wheelersburg and us are two great programs, and it’s always going to be tight and physical like this. It’s always a battle with them, both teams have a lot of heart and hustle,” said Hackworth. “It’s good stuff.”

The Pirates, honestly, have few complaints — having played 16 regular-season matches, and only losing once.

“Our guys fought and our effort was there. It was a heckuva match,” said Estep. “Both teams have a lot of things to be proud of. We’ve been very good all year, and we have another SOC championship to show for that.”

* * *

Minford 1 1 — 2

Wheelersburg o 1 — 1

M — Gavin Downey (unassisted), 3:39, 1st (1-0 M)

W —Max Hagans (penalty kick), 13:15, 2nd (1-1 tie)

W — Gavin Downey (unassisted), 10:21, 2nd (2-1 M)

SHOTS — Minford 20 (11 on goal), Wheelersburg 20 (16 on goal)

SAVES — Minford 15 (Cole Borland), Wheelersburg 9 (Breyden Byrd)

FOULS — Minford 14, Wheelersburg 4

YELLOW CARDS — Wheelersburg bench, :00, 1st; Minford bench, 13:15, 2nd; Luke Oakes, Minford, 12:54, 2nd; Connor Estep, Wheelersburg, 12:54, 2nd; Miller McKenzie, Wheelersburg, :49, 2nd; Adam Crank, Minford, :05, 2nd

Minford’s Myles Montgomery (10) is involved in this header during the Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg on Thursday night.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_Minford-Burg-Boys-3.jpgMinford’s Myles Montgomery (10) is involved in this header during the Falcons’ Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg on Thursday night. Courtesy of Terry Stevenson of www.burgsports.com

Wheelersburg senior Jackson Schwamburger (10) and Minford’s Ethan Cordle (7) chase down a loose ball during Thursday night’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_Minford-Burg-Boys-1-.jpgWheelersburg senior Jackson Schwamburger (10) and Minford’s Ethan Cordle (7) chase down a loose ball during Thursday night’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer match at Wheelersburg’s Ed Miller Stadium. Courtesy of Terry Stevenson of www.burgsports.com

Minford senior goalkeeper Cole Borland makes one of his 15 saves during the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer win over Wheelersburg on Thursday night.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_Minford-at-Burg-Borland.jpgMinford senior goalkeeper Cole Borland makes one of his 15 saves during the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer win over Wheelersburg on Thursday night. Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography

Minford teammates Gavin Downey (left) and Grant Wheeler (right) immediately celebrate the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer victory at Wheelersburg on Thursday night.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/10/web1_Minford-at-Burg-Celebration.jpgMinford teammates Gavin Downey (left) and Grant Wheeler (right) immediately celebrate the Falcons’ 2-1 Southern Ohio Conference Division II boys soccer victory at Wheelersburg on Thursday night. Courtesy of Patrick Phillips of Glory Days Photography
Minford wins 2-1 at Burg, splits SOC II

By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

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

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