St. Clairsville boys blank EL
Red Devils seek 3-peat Saturday against Weirton
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Deadlocked at nil after 40 minutes of action, St. Clairsville boys soccer coach Jeff Roberts reminded his team at halftime that soccer is exactly that — a team sport.
The second-seeded Red Devils (9-1) took the comment to heart and played with a sense of togetherness in the second half as they scored three goals in blanking No. 3 East Liverpool (5-2-2) Thursday night by a 3-0 count in an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A tournament semifinal on the artificial pitch inside a chill-filled Red Devil Stadium.
With the victory, its seventh in a row, St. Clairsville advances to Saturday’s championship match against top-seeded Weir, once again on the home pitch. Start time is scheduled for approximately 2 p.m.
“We never really got in a rhythm in the first half. We told them there were a lot of individuals on the field but we needed to play as a team,” Roberts, who is now perfect in five OVAC Tournament matches, said. “We needed to play our ball. We were falling into the trap of playing their ball which is the long ball. They keep a lot of people back, so it’s hard to do that, especially with the way the wind was at the start.
“We just wanted to possess the ball better up front,” he added. “We told them the opportunities would come, and they did.”
Maddox Tennar broke the stalemate in the 53rd minute. The junior took a nifty feed from Jesse Brannan deep in the box to the left of Potter goalkeeper Cole Dailey. Tennar went far corner just inside the post to make it 1-0.
“Maddox hasn’t had very many goals this season, but that was a big one,” Roberts said after the Red Devils initial — and game-winning — goal. “It looked great.”
Caden Stout made it 2-0 in the 66th minute on a nice individual move. The senior possessed the ball deep in the left wing before cutting in between two defenders and blistering a laser along the artificial pitch into the far corner.
Brannan closed out the scoring with a left-footed blast in the 70th minute. Stout logged the assist.
“Caden ended up coming through with a really big goal to make it 2-0,” Roberts added. “That goal kind of shut things down a little bit. Jesse’s was the capper.”
While the Red Devils were keeping the ball in East Liverpool’s end of the pitch, goalkeeper Shane Jackson was recording his eighth shutout of the season. The senior charted just three saves, all coming before the halftime break.
“Shane really didn’t get many opportunities, especially in the second half,” Roberts said. “That’s East Liverpool’s style of play … the long ball. They like to keep a lot of people back and we like to attack. It was a contrast of styles. It just took us a little bit to figure it out.”
Roberts also praised the play of senior Andy Schmidt.
“I thought Andy played outstanding,” Roberts said. “He stepped in for Lucas Otto who missed the game and was incredible. He had a great game on the defensive end for us.”
Dailey recorded eight saves before giving way to Gabe Dunlap who made three stops.
“We knew St. Clairsville was a good team,” East Liverpool head coach Chase Hilliard said. “We were able to keep them contained but they came out in the second half with something to prove. They got a goal and it lifted their spirits and brought ours down.
“We kept trying to run with them but it was a game of catchup after that and we couldn’t catch up.”
As for Weir, Roberts said it will be a quality opponent.
“I’m looking forward to that game,” Roberts acknowledged. “They are undefeated with two ties. I’m looking forward to it.”