Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CAMBRIDGE — He’s a sophomore, folks. And by God, he’s dangerous with the ball at his feet.
Unioto’s Lucas Hanes has two years left to cause opposing defenses to have nightmares. But if St. Clairsville never sees him again, the Red Devils won’t count that as a disappointment.
Hanes purchased frequent flyer miles near St. Clairsville’s goal on Wednesday. But it took him nearly 60 minutes to find the back of the net. And once he did, he made himself at home.
The star forward scored three times in the final 22 minutes and 22 seconds to lift Unioto (15-3-2) to a 3-2 win over the Red Devils in a Division II regional semifinal at Cambridge High School — the Shermans’ first regional tournament win in 17 years.
Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time moments.
There was no bigger player than Hanes in the Shermans’ most important moment this season.
“We were playing pretty slow,” Hanes said of his team’s offensive performance. “But then River [Pettigrew] played a ball in off his head and I finished it. After that, everything just clicked.”
That development couldn’t have happened at a more dire time.
After the Red Devils (17-4) scored with 38:09 left in the second half to seize a 2-0 lead — a score that followed St. Clairsville’s first goal at the 4:37 mark in the first half — Unioto’s offense kicked into a second gear.
Pettigrew was driving that vehicle.
The sophomore headed a ball that found Hanes’ right foot. The SVC Player of the Year then did the rest, splitting two defenders and finally putting one past the keeper to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Then, with 12:42 left, Hanes provided the equalizer — this time with a shot from the right side of the box that sent the Shermans’ sideline into a frenzy.
You could feel coach Brandon Hanes on the sideline take a deep breath of relief.
“It eerily reminded me of last year when we were up 3-1 at this same level,” Brandon Hanes said. “But man, we took that loss [to Alexander] to heart and let it sink into our heads. I think if we didn’t go through that last year, we wouldn’t go out in the second half tonight and do what we did.”
While Hanes did the scoring, Unioto senior Asher McBee provided the game’s deciding play.
McBee played a ricochet inside the box with a St. Clairsville defender draped over his back. He controlled possession before drawing a foul, setting Hanes up for a penalty kick with 7:20 left.
Hanes toed the line and calmly beat the keeper to complete his hat trick in the biggest game of his career to date.
“We tried to swing it in and it ricocheted off someone,” McBee explained when asked about the play inside the box. “I saw Cam [Thompson], I hit him with a pass and he shot it. It ricocheted off someone else and I just went for it at the edge of the box. Dude came with me and decided to foul me. PK.”
For the next seven minutes, St. Clairsville’s offense made a mad dash to force a tie. But each time, the Shermans were there to defend.
That unit helped seal the improbable come-from-behind win and add a new chapter to the school’s history books in the process.
“It’s a huge win,” Brandon Hanes said. “We had Clifton Brown and Tyler Bryant [ two members from that 2004 team] come talk to the boys the last two days. They were in the last Elite 8 and they know how to win a regional game. They said a lot of great things that really helped our kids understand the importance of this game. They knew they’d have to bring it all eighty minutes. That’s what I saw tonight. They never quit.”
The Shermans will now meet with Athens in a Division II regional final at 11 a.m, Saturday at West Muskingum. Earlier this season, Unioto handed the Bulldogs a 6-0 loss.
But that was then and this is now.
Since that loss to Unioto, Athens is 7-0-1 and has scored 41 times in those eight games — 22 of which came in a win over New Lexington.
“Athens is an extraordinary program. They’ve whipped up throughout my career,” senior Ashton Sigler said. “That 6-0 win means nothing. We’re going into that game thinking that they’re the greatest team on God’s green Earth. We know the guys we have to watch. We just have to do our job.”
Shots: Unioto 15, St. Clairsville 12
Shots on Goal: Unioto 9, St. Clairsville 7
Saves: Unioto 8 (Geise 7, Arredondo 1), St. Clairsville 4 (Jackson)
Fouls: Unioto 9, St. Clairsville 5
Corners Won: Unioto 6, St. Clairsville 4