John Bruce, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — For the first 77 minutes of Saturday’s district championship game, it appeared that Cinderella would continue onto the ball.
But, with 2:45 remaining, Minford’s Adam Crank shattered that glass slipper and sent the Mighty Minford Falcons to the regional tournament for the first time since the 2011 season with a 3-2 win over Peebles.
“We really had high expectations after the first couple of games,” Crank said. “We knew we could compete with a lot of the better teams. So it’s exciting but it’s expected at the same time.”
The Indians, who came into the tournament as a No. 13 seed, had made an outstanding run by knocking off league rivals Lynchburg-Clay and Fairfield in shutout fashion — earning their first trip to the district final since 2012, a season in which they won the program’s only district championship.
Peebles (11-6-2) used a strong defense, led by junior goalkeeper Zane Porter, and a quick counterattack strategy to put pressure on the Falcons.
Minford (18-1) played the majority of the game in the attacking third of the field, firing many shots from distance to which a large portion were off target. Two of those shots clanked off the woodwork, a screaming direct kick from Crank and a low-rocket from Luke Rader almost put the Falcons on the scoreboard.
Besides those two opportunities, it would be Porter there to deny any chances the Falcons received for the remainder of the first half.
With 4:24 to play in the opening half, Peebles built their best attack of the stanza with Mason Sims passing to Cory Reed, who led Evan Day ahead of the defense. Day was unable to beat Minford goalkeeper Levi Coriell to the ball, but Coriell’s clearance went off of Day and deflected into the goal to give the Indians a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
“We came into halftime pretty down,” Crank said. “We knew we could play a lot better than we did in the first half. Coach told us to play a lot more one-twos and it worked out perfectly.”
Minford stormed out of the gates in the second half, but couldn’t break through Peebles’ stingy backline. It would take over 16 minutes for the Falcons to finally get their first shot on target — and what a shot it was.
Freshman Gavin Downey collected a loose ball on the right side of the box and, after a gather, Downey fired a shot that landed perfectly in the left side upper-ninety to tie the match at 1-1 with 23:51 to play.
That goal completely swung momentum into the Falcons’ favor and another freshman took full advantage of that at the 19:06 mark. Rader connected with Myles Montgomery near the six-yard box and the crafty Montgomery banged the shot home to give the Falcons a quick 2-1 lead.
Typically, a team with only one senior would pack their bags and prepare for the offseason, but not these young Peebles Indians. With 13:11 to play, Reed sent a great ball ahead for Sims, who beat Coriell to once again tie the game, this time at 2-2.
The Falcons, somehow, didn’t seem phased by the turn of events, as they continued to press forward for the winning goal. Porter would make a couple more outstanding saves to temporarily keep the match tied.
At the 2:45 mark, Crank combined on multiple 1-2 passes with Montgomery, finally finding himself six yards out from the goal on the left side. The captain then calmly settled the ball and struck a hard, left-footed shot that even the outstanding Porter had no chance to keep out of the net.
Minford was able to grind away the final seconds without allowing another offensive attack from the Indians to earn their first district title since the 2011 season.
The Falcons will return to action on Wednesday in a Division III regional semifinal against Berlin Hiland, a 7-1 winner over West Muskingum on Saturday. That match will take place at 7 p.m. at Grove City High School.
“We need to talk a lot more,” Crank said. “Today, that [phase] was pretty bad. We had to rely on just knowing where people were going to be. So we have to work on talking and a lot of the hustle. It was pretty lackadaisical today.”
4:14 – P – Evan Day, unassisted
23:51 – M – Gavin Downey (8th), unassisted
19:06 – M – Myles Montgomery (12th), assist to Luke Rader
13:11 – P – Mason Sims, assist to Cory Reed
2:35 – M – Adam Crank (11th), assist to Montgomery