Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — For much of Friday’s first half, Watkins Memorial controlled possession of the ball, challenged Chillicothe’s defense and held a 1-0 lead.
But when Michael Herlihy tied the game with just under 11 minutes left, it seemed as if one swift swing of his foot shifted momentum and gave the Cavaliers the only shot in the arm they’d need.
“I really think after the first goal, we went down and we needed our first to get the team up and going,” Herlihy said. “It really got the morale up and it made us start hustling. We started making better passes and working the sides. After halftime, we just started going at it and [Watkins Memorial] couldn’t handle us.”
After Herlihy sent the game into halftime in a 1-1 tie, Chillicothe picked up where it left off in the second 40-minute period. The Cavaliers (1-0) tallied four second half goals while holding Watkins Memorial (0-1) scoreless, running away with a 5-1 season-opening victory.
Holding down the team’s back line and leading the charge towards the second half shutout was a mix of Michael Lapurga, Tito Garcia and goalie Nehemiah Reissig.
Garcia noted the team’s slow start but also gave his team credit for figuring things out on the fly.
“Playing this game really opened our eyes to the Division I perspective,” Garcia said. “[Watkins Memorial] came out very strong and very physical. We weren’t used to that. So settling in was rough. They scored their first goal and we kind of realized where we needed to be at. We decided to play more as a team, rather than individually.”
The Warriors started the scoring after being awarded a penalty kick with 31:36 left in the first half. For the next 20-plus minutes, they held their 1-0 lead until Herlihy struck with 10:44 left.
In the second half, the Cavaliers wasted no time taking a lead as Isaac Crawford scored with 38:44 left off an assist from Herlihy. While Reissig kept denying shots in goal, his teammates bought insurance at the 13:45 mark when sophomore Brady Wood scored.
Later, with a 3-1 lead at 6:29, Seth Cox saw pure hustle pay off. Cox had a ball that Watkins Memorial’s goalkeeper kicked deflect off his back and ricochet into the net, making it 4-1.
The night’s final score came with 5:09 left in regulation as Herlihy put an exclamation point on a picture perfect night, teamwise and individually.
“This is one of the few Division I schools that we play,” Herlihy said. “It’s a great game to win. We needed it. When we beat Division I teams, it helps our standing and it shows how good we actually are. We proved ourselves tonight and, hopefully, we can continue that this season.”
The Cavaliers will have a week to prepare for their next match. On Aug. 24 at 11:30 a.m., they’ll travel to Hilliard Davidson for a non-league date.
“This is a big win for us,” Garcia said. “Two years ago, [Watkins Memorial] beat us 4-1 in the tournament. That was a big upset for us. So tonight, we came back and hit them hard. We like it.”