LOGAN — The Wheelersburg Pirates boys soccer team was hopeful of their chances of knocking off the defending Division III state champions.
Grandview Heights had other plans — as they defeated the Pirates 2-0 in Saturday’s Region 11 final to earn their second-straight regional championship.
It was the third time the Pirates and Bobcats have met in the regional stage in as many years, with the Bobcats earning a 1-0 win a season ago in the regional semis to go with this year’s two goal victory.
GH took a 1-0 lead into halftime thanks to a penalty kick goal by Danny Claypool with 16:21 to play in the first half.
They added another near the midway point of the second half on a goal by Jayden Brown, which gave the Bobcats a 2-0 lead with 20:32 to play.
“They had us on our heels. I think our focus was so much on following runners and making sure we had each jersey marked,” Wheelersburg coach Jon Estep said, after the game. “I thought we got a little too defensive and it allowed them to control the game. Once we were able to get the ball, we couldn’t get enough push to support Max and Nick in that part of it. But we battled, we battled that first half. Unfortunately that PK call is called, but I felt good that we were in striking distance just trailing by one.”
Over the course of the game, Grandview Heights attempted 21 shots on goal, while Wheelersburg attempted four.
Freshman goalkeeper Breyden Byrd, who drew the praise of Estep following the game, finished with a game-high 19 saves for the Pirates.
“Breyden Byrd stepped up and grew up right before our eyes — kept us in it,” Estep said.
The Pirates will graduate five seniors from their team this season, including Jackson Schwamburger, Nolan Wright, Gavin Bradley, Jeremiah Stratton, and Eli Brammer.
These five were apart of three SOC II championships, three district championships, and a regional championship during their sophomore season as part of the ‘Burg soccer program.
“Very successful group,” Estep said. “Four of the five are four year players for us. Jackson Schwamburger’s been with me since day one, him and Connor have been here since I took over in June 2015. To know that he’s not going to be around anymore, that’s going to be different because he’s seen it all. As a group, they’re very accomplished. Three district championships and regional appearances, three SOC championships. Watching Gavin and Nolan take over the defense after the 2020 season and be the back bone of that, Jackson moving around in different positions and being a contributor all four years. Jeremiah and Eli have worked extremely hard for four years, no matter the situation. I hope they enjoyed their time — it’s a special class and we hate to see them leave.”
While the Pirates will say farewell to key losses, they’ll return their top-three goal scorers in junior Max Hagans (47), freshman Nick Sylvia (43), and junior Connor Estep (12).
“Four freshman in a game like this, couple of sophomores, and we’ll lean on Connor and Max next year as our leaders,” Estep said. “Our three leading goal scorers coming back and Connor and Max as seniors who’ve been through it all to lead these guys in the offseason. And get physically stronger. You see in games like this once you get to this level, how can we improve? Got to get better and get back to work.”
Wheelersburg 0 0 — 0
Grandview Heights 1 1 — 2
GH — Danny Claypool (Penalty kick goal) — 16:21 1H; 1-0 GH
GH — Jayden Brown — 20:32 2H; 2-0 GH
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved