Brock Netter, Staff Writer
JACKSON — Jackson coach Lee Lord said after Thursday’s game that every championship won has a little bit of luck to it.
Although Thursday wasn’t a championship game, a little bit of luck was still needed as Trent Wolford found the back of the net in overtime and the Ironmen squeaked out a 3-2 victory over Unioto in a Division II sectional semifinal.
“Collin [Ghearing] hit it over and it bounced one time in the air,” Wolford said. “I saw the goalie coming towards me and the defender was trying to squeeze me out, so I just took my right foot and hit it in the side of the net.”
Jackson came out like its hair was on fire and had little trouble getting past Unioto’s defense from the jump.
Ghearing took a free kick from the top left side of the box and bent it perfectly into the upper right part of the net to put Jackson ahead 1-0 with 28:12 left in the first half.
“I saw the keeper sitting on the near post so the back post was wide open,” Ghearing said. “I figured I should put it back post, either for a possible header or just try and put into the side net.”
Ghearing, being the aggressive player that he is, found himself on the ground most of the night. But he was awarded another free kick just minutes later.
This time, instead of going over the top, he kept the shot on the ground and sent a rocket under Unioto’s wall into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“I saw the way the keeper set the wall up and he was standing right behind it,” Ghearing said. “So that left the far post open, which meant there was a line right to the goal and I hit it.”
Unioto had a chance to cut into the deficit on a penalty kick, but Jackson’s Ty Broermann came up with a huge save, diving left and knocking the ball out of bounds to keep the 2-0 lead intact at halftime.
“That was a huge save. Kept momentum with us and kept Unioto scoreless,” Lord said. “Our defense played really well in the first half, limiting their chances and controlling the middle of the field pretty well.”
However, the tides completely flipped in the second half as Unioto played more hungry and determined to take momentum.
It took less than three minutes for the Shermans to crack the scoreboard as Vijay Wangui found the back of the net, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Minutes later, Ethan Kerns took a ball from just before midfield, cut through six Jackson defenders and found a streaking Wangui on the left wing before he connected for a second time, making it 2-2 with less than 30 minutes left in the half.
“I have no idea what happened to us in the second half,” Lord said. “It was almost like we were playing scared a little bit. We knew Unioto was going to come out strong and put the pressure on. They made a couple position switches and we didn’t adjust.”
Unioto controlled ball possession for the entire second half, out-shooting the Ironmen 9-1, but failing to connect on a go-ahead goal to force overtime.
With momentum still firmly on Unioto’s side, the Shermans continued to control the middle while looking for an opening in the final third of the field.
They caught that opening as Wangui placed a perfect through ball to Cameron DeBord, who struck the ball, only for it to hit the top of the crossbar and bounce up and down on the goal line before Broermann caught it to prevent a winning score.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, we probably shouldn’t have won this game,” Lord said. “I don’t know what happened in the second half, but we didn’t play very well at all. We didn’t match Unioto’s intensity at all.”
Unioto’s misfortune turned into Jackson’s opportunity to win minutes later as the ball found Wolford’s foot, and then the back of the net for the victory.
“My teammates all rallied and piled onto me. It sort of reminded me of last year against Warren when we did the same to Ty [Broermann] after he shut them out in a shootout,” Wolford said. “This is just an incredible feeling. By far, the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”
Jackson advances to play for a Division II sectional final on Saturday at Miami Trace, which the Ironmen already own two victories over this season.
However, Ghearing and company know that beating a team for a third time is no easy task.
“Last time we played Miami Trace, I remember a few of the players saying ‘Man, we have to stop losing to these guys.’ So we know they’ll be ready,” Ghearing said. “We’ll be ready as well, but we have to stayed focused. It’s going to be a hard game. Nothing about this will be pretty.”