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Thornburg powers St. C. boys by Beaver Local

St. Clairsville's Nate Thornburg (21) scored four goals Saturday as the Red Devils blanked Beaver Local, 6-0, in Division II sectional action.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Putting the ball in the net is the name of the game in soccer. St. Clairsville had plenty of opportunities in the first half, but could only tickle the twine once.

That was not the case in the second 40 minutes as Nate Thornburg caught fire and buried four shots into the back of the net as the Red Devils rolled 6-0 over Beaver Local in a Division II boys’ soccer sectional championship match on the artificial pitch at Red Devil Stadium.

“My teammates kept passing me the ball but it was all in my head,” senior Nate Thornburg said of several missed opportunities in the first 40 minutes. “I finally got it figured out in the second half. Fortunately, I’ve got teammates that can put the ball on my feet and give me the opportunities to score.”

Despite outshooting the Beavers 13-3 in the first half, third-seeded St. Clairsville only led 1-0. The goal came on a Caden Stout penalty kick in the 11th minute when teammate Jesse Brannan was tripped in the box. The senior sent a laser just inside the post to the right of diving Beaver Local goalkeeper John Mondak, who kept his team alive with several key saves in the opening minutes.

“I’m super excited about advancing. We played (Wheeling) Park last week and beat them. They are a really good team so we’ve been trying to play like we did against them,” Thornburg added. “We need to play like a team and not individuals. We did that in the second half today.”

St. Clairsville head coach Jeff Roberts had one word for the difference between halves.

“Finishing,” he stressed. “I felt like we had good possessions and we were passing the ball well, but we just kept failing to put the ball away. Nate said at halftime that he was going to make up for the poor first half, and he definitely did. He had two breakaways and those are dreams for a kid with his talent. He didn’t make either of them but he redeemed himself. He didn’t get down on himself, picked the team up and got on fire.”

Thornburg made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute when he popped home a rebound. It became 3-0 nine minutes later when Brannan sent a blast past Mondak from 25 yards out. Andy Schmidt logged the assist. Thornburg headed in a lob from Jack Gasber in the 67th minute for a 4-0 reading. He finished off his outstanding performance in the 69th and 70th minutes. Brannan charted an assist.

St. Clairsville was forced to start senior Brandon Kralovic in net as classmate Shane Jackson was late in arriving after taking his ACT earlier in the morning.

“It was getting later and later, so we had Brandon step in,” Roberts noted. “He hasn’t played goalkeeper much but he stepped up to the challenge. When Shane went in, Brandon went back to his spot on defense and played well there.”

Kralovic didn’t face a shot in 10 minutes of action. Jackson made four saves.

St. Clairsville (14-3) will play New Philadelphia on Tuesday in the district semifinals at a site to be determined by Ohio High Athletic Association officials. The Quakers were awarded a forfeit over Union Local earlier in the week.

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