West Holmes Boys Soccer

Knights finally find the sweet spot to send Huskies home in 1-0 win

Tyler Masters was terrific as Knights earned a 1-0 victory over Harrison Central

If omens and signs are real, then the West Holmes Knights must have felt really good when their bus heading to Harrison Central High School turned into the road leading to the school and the road name was “Holmes.”

While the Knights were a road underdog, a strong Ohio Cardinal Conference slate of games this fall has certainly prepared them for tournament play, and the Knights became the lone lower-seeded away team to record a victory in the eight opening-round games of East District play, cashing in on a late Curtis Wagner goal to gain a 1-0 victory.

After a 20-minute period of feeling out what Harrison Central was going to play to begin the game, the Knights began to go into attack mode and took control of the tempo and ball possession.

“Early on we were late getting to the ball, and you can’t do that, but we did kind of want to settle in and see how they were going to play,” head coach Dave Zimmerly said. “But I thought we responded well, and once we got going, we were pretty dominant.”

However, the one area they didn’t take command in was on the scoreboard, where the Huskies came away with stop after stop in the second half of play.

West Holmes was knocking on the door throughout the second half, led by speedsters Grant Miller and Tyler Masters, who continued to utilize their outside speed to set up scoring chances. However, the Knights struggled to produce a goal, despite numerous great looks. Masters had several chances in the first half and early in the second half, and Miller also took a couple of great looks, the third one coming on a rifle shot from about 20 yards that pummeled the keeper but stayed out of the net.

With 14:30 to play, Jackson Oliver got loose about 25 yards out and lofted a high, arching shot over the top of the Huskies’ keeper. However, it sailed just over the cross bar and out of play, leaving the Knights wanting yet again.

Masters and Miller each sent a ball careening just outside the left post, but West Holmes could sense it was ready to knock one home.

“It was getting frustrating because of all of the close calls, but we knew we were going to get one home in the end,” Masters said. “It was all working toward that one goal, and we got it.”

They did at 8:42 left to play when Miller beat two defenders, slipped along the left end line and sent a fantastic cross to Wagner, who was moving in on the right side of the net. Wagner took Miller’s thigh-high pass, leapt and drove it home past a diving keeper for the go-ahead goal.

“I saw the opening down the line and took off, and that move was open a lot in the second half, and I saw Curtis coming in, and he beat his defender and just had to get it to him. Every time we went down the field it felt like we were going to score, and time just kept ticking away without a goal. It was a relief to finally get one.”

“That felt great to finally finish,” Wagner said. “We were getting so many chances and not connecting, and to finally put us up was exciting. We are excited to move on, but we know we have to continue to work to get better when we face Minerva.”

With the lead now in tow and with less than eight minutes left to play, most teams would jam defenders in their own box and make scoring difficult for their opponent. Instead, Zimmerly chose to continue to have his Knights in full attack mode, figuring if they kept the ball on Harrison Central’s half of the field, they weren’t going to score.

“We felt it was best that we continued to keep pressuring them, so we pushed up and maintained control of the ball,” Zimmerly said. “We finished strong and were able to keep the pressure on them all night to the very end.”

Zimmerly said a key was how the Knights seemed to wear down the Huskies. He said that midway through the second half he felt his team had a decided advantage because Harrison Central looked to be gassed, although he said their kids never stopped playing hard.

“We were starting to find our spots with more consistency, and keeping the pressure on them really made it tough on them,” Zimmerly said.

The Knights advance to play two-seed Minerva at Minerva on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.

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