Steubenville boys blank St. Clairsville

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Steubenville may not have played a perfect game Tuesday night, but it was darn close.

Big Red (3-1) scored a pair of goals within a 2-minute span midway through the first half and the defense did the rest in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated St. Clairsville (4-1) in boys’ high school soccer action on the artificial pitch inside Red Devil Stadium.

“The first goal is important and lately we’ve been allowing the first one and tonight we didn’t do that,” Steubenville head coach Greg Bowers said. “We came out and got the second one and then we kind of settled in.

“The kids worked really hard on not allowing them to shoot or penetrate our defense. That back line, led by our two seniors Alex Barnhouse and Scotty Mitchell, played outstanding,” Bowers continued. “We rotated wings in just to keep getting to the ball, and everyone we put in did an excellent job. It was a great team effort.”

The Red Devils entered the match unscored upon in four matches. That lasted a little more than 17 minutes last night.

Esteban Serna put the visitors ahead for good when he lofted the ball towards the St. Clairsville net from 25 yards out. The ball drifted over the head of goalkeeper Ethan Banks and into the twine.

Less than two minutes later, Noah Reinacher dribbled around and through the Red Devils defense before pounding the ball past Banks.

“Esteban has showed glimpses of being able to hit that shot,” Bowers noted. “He caught ahold of that one and put it in the cage. That was huge.

“Noah is one of our goal scorers. He finds a way and he came through for us tonight.”

While the offense was putting a pair of shots in the back of the net, the defense was air-tight, especially in the first half when St. Clairsville failed to record a shot on goal. In fact, the Red Devils didn’t register a shot until 67th minute when Alex Thornburg’s header sailed wide of the cage. Caden Stout had the other two shots, both off of direct kicks, but neither found the range.

“We knew this game could go either way. These are the type of games that can make you or break you,” Bowers added. “It’s just a win. We’ve got to move on. We’ve got Oak Glen on Thursday.”

Despite suffering his first loss as St. Clairsville head coach, Mehdi Ayari saw things that he liked from his squad.

“I think we had two lapses of concentration that were responsible for the two goals,” he explained. “Offensively, we just couldn’t click tonight. It just didn’t happen for us, but I am still impressed with the amount of possession of the ball we had. If you look at the stats, we probably had 60-70 percent of the ball the entire time. Our passing was good. We just didn’t take shots and that’s unfortunate.”

Big Red goalkeeper Josh Lahr made a pair of saves. Banks stopped three.