Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — Wheelersburg was on the exact same stage last year as it was Thursday, in a Division III district final. In 2019, the Pirates fell short of holding the trophy in penalty kicks at the hands of Lynchburg-Clay.
But this year, Wheelersburg (19-0) left no doubt that it was bringing home hardware. The Pirates scored three goals in a 10-minute span, and continued to pour it on as they handed North Adams (13-4-2) a 7-0 drubbing — winning their first district championship since 2013.
“We definitely had some unfinished business coming into the game and we knew it was going to be a tough game at first,” Wheelersburg goalie Eric Green said. “But we also knew that if we came out hard and put some goals on [North Adams] quick, they wouldn’t be able to respond.”
Aaron Jolly was the story of the game, but that’s not exactly breaking news at this point. He got any shot he wanted, made any pass he chose and connected on most of his shots.
He scored the game’s opening goal, followed by a perfect cross from Jackson Schwamburger to Max Hagans for a header and a 2-0 lead.
Jolly scored again off a corner kick from Jacob Saxby, before notching an assist to Lane Jordan, pushing the score to 4-0 and effectively putting the game on ice.
“Last year left a bad taste in our mouths, losing in a penalty shootout,” Wheelersburg forward Aaron Jolly said. “We knew [North Adams] wasn’t going to do a lot to our back line, so we just needed to score quick and often. We struggled in the last game against Valley passing the ball and we did a much better job all around this time. Everything went so much smoother. I couldn’t be happier with the result and my teammates deserve all the credit.”
Jolly finished a hat trick in the second half alongside goals from Nathan Sylvia and Chris Shiepis to round out the final score. Green came up with six saves in goal.
“I knew North Adams wasn’t going to make a lot of deep diving runs so I had the defense play back a little more than usual,” Green said. “The back row did a good job of clearing and making it a little easier for me.
“We know what Lynchburg-Clay is about having played them last year. It’s a winnable game, but we have to come prepared and play hard like we usually do.”
The Pirates will now have a chance at revenge when they meet Lynchburg-Clay at 7 p.m., Wednesday. The location has yet to be determined.
Lynchburg-Clay 2, Ironton St. Joe 2 (Mustangs win 3-2 in PKs)
WAVERLY — For 70 minutes, Lynchburg-Clay controlled every facet of Thursday’s game. It had a 2-0 lead following an early goal and one late in the first half, which came off the foot of Harrison Burge.
Ironton St. Joe didn’t even have its first shot attempt until after the 20-minute mark in the second half. But the Flyers found a way to give themselves fresh breath.
With 10:35 left in regulation, the Flyers (17-1-1) got a ball to connect with the back of the net off the foot of Matthew Sheridan, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Six minutes later, the equalizer came as Zach Johnson weaved through the Mustangs’ defense, took a shot and connected to tie the game 2-2, eventually forcing overtime.
“We weren’t getting a lot of good passes. We were planning on chipping the ball over the defense since they were getting slower,” Lynchburg-Clay’s Connor Tyree said. “However, the ball was way too wet and it kept sliding. Ironton St. Joe took advantage of it and gave themselves a chance in the end.”
“They were winning a lot of the 50-50 balls in the middle of the field,” Lynchburg-Clay goalie Ian Waits said. “They started playing through balls outside, and our outside backs were too far in to go out and challenge. They made adjustments and it worked for them.”
After neither team scored in double overtime, the drama reached its peak with penalty kicks.
Burge connected on his shot following a Flyer miss. Then Waits came through with back-to-back blocks to keep the Mustangs (14-2-1) ahead.
“I was reading their eyes and I noticed that they all looked the opposite way of where they were going to go,” Waits said. “So I guessed and went to the opposite side each time, it worked every time.”
After Hunter Balon connected on a goal, making it 2-1 Lynchburg-Clay, Ironton St. Joe had to make the next shot to keep its season alive, but the kick missed high and to the right, clinching back-to-back district titles for the Mustangs.
“This is such an incredible feeling, especially for me as a senior,” Tyree said. “But the job isn’t done. Our goal is to go further than we did last year, and now we’ll face a really good Wheelersburg team with one of the best players in Aaron Jolly. Our focus needs to be much better once the game comes.”
Lynchburg-Clay will face off against Wheelersburg in a Division III regional semifinal at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The location of that match will be announced at a later date.