Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
MINFORD — Eight up. Eight down.
After an impressive showing on Monday, and now halfway through its regular season, Minford still hasn’t met an opponent better than itself.
Using a first half flurry of scores, the Falcons (8-0) remained undefeated with a 3-0 win over previously unbeaten Valley in a physical, fast-paced affair.
“We came out strong. At Wheelersburg [on Sept. 14 in a 2-1 win], we came out slow and I’ve been really on them about starting with energy,” Minford coach Jacob Hackworth said. “We got three goals in the first 20 minutes and set in after. We kept a good team from scoring. [Valley] is a really good team.”
The Indians (6-1) came into the contest averaging over four goals per match. But with a focus on Valley’s Austin Sommers, Minford’s defense managed to put the clamps on a stable of viable scoring options and pitch a shutout.
“Valley plays in a unique formation,” Hackworth said. “They have three center-mids and three strikers while two of the strikers stay wide. So we wanted to stay compact and really pay attention to [Sommers]. With everybody else, we wanted to keep it in front and kind of play in a dome. We wanted to force 20-yard shots. We’re confident in our keeper [Levi Coriell] with those. So if we could keep the ball in front of us, we thought our chances were good.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons’ offense wasted no time getting on the scoreboard.
That’s courtesy of Adam Crank, who sent a free kick over the outstretched arms of Valley keeper Christopher Queen with 33:59 left in the first half. Crank’s shot came from about 40 yards out.
“I knew if we could get a goal early, it would definitely boost our confidence,” Hackworth said. “The scouting report showed that [Valley’s] keeper was really good and he plays high. It works for him. So I told our guys to test him. Adam just put a really good shot on the ball. It was one of the better ones you’ll see.”
Two minutes and 10 seconds later, Zane Miller gave Minford a 2-0 lead. The Falcons were awarded a penalty kick with 31:39 left after a foul occurred in the box, allowing Miller the opportunity.
Then, at the 21:54 mark, Crank crossed to Miller near the net and the senior did the rest to put Minford ahead 3-0 just 18 minutes in.
That was all the scoring the Falcons needed to seal their eighth win.
“I think it’s just everybody playing for each other,” Hackworth said. “There’s no ‘me’ on this team. They’re buying in. I’ve got kids playing positions they’ve never played before and everybody is responding really well to that. We’re putting the best 11 we have out there and they play hard.”
The next 60 minutes of gameplay saw a physical deadlock — the two teams combined for 25 foul calls and three cards — while Minford’s defense continued to deflect any Valley scoring chance.
The physicality was something Minford had prepared for, especially after its win over Wheelersburg last week.
“It was just about keeping the right mind,” Crank said after the win. “Last game prepared us for this. It was a real physical game [at Wheelersburg] and we knew this one would be, too. We knew we just had to play through it. [Valley] was undefeated but we played it like it was any other team. Tonight’s win gives us a boost of confidence.”
The Falcons will start their second half slate on Thursday at Northwest. Meanwhile, the Indians will attempt to get back on track this evening, traveling to New Boston.
“We’re treating this like we’re halfway through the season and we’re 0-0,” Hackworth said. “Thursday is game one again and the start of the year. That’s how we’re looking at it. At the start of the year, we were working on defense and we just shut out one of the best teams in the league. So we’ve elevated that. So we want to start the second half of the season just like we did the first.”