By DEL DUDUIT
Southern Ohio Today
Wheelersburg is going up against the No. 1 ranked Division III high school boys’ soccer team on Wednesday at Springfield High School with a shot to play for a state championship.
The Pirates (21-0-0) defeated Grandview Heights 2-1 on Saturday at Ed Miller Stadium and had to come from behind and trailed 1-0 at the break.
Braxton Sammons scored two goals in the second half to boost Wheelersburg to its first regional title in school history.
Now, top-ranked Mariemont from Cincinnati stands in the way of Wheelersburg’s path to a state crown.
Over the past few weeks, the Warriors have had some close matches.
They defeated Cincinnati Country Day 3-2 in overtime and got past Yellow Springs 4-3 and Troy Christian 2-1.
“They have had some close games, just like we have,” Wheelersburg Coach Jon Estep said. “They have some talented players and are a really fast team.”
Estep said the Warriors have, what he believes, are the two top players in Ohio in Luke Brothers and Kyle Croll.
“They have a lot of speed and are talented on both ends of the ball. We have been watching them on film a little bit, and they have speed and that allows them to do things that others can’t at this level,” he said. “They’re battle tested and they play in the Cincinnati Hills League, which has some really good teams across the southwest district and up into the central and northwest district. They’ve been the No. 1 team in the state all year long for a reason.”
This is the second Final Four appearance for Mariemont.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a battle and it’s going to be a test,” Estep said. “We know what they are going to bring to the table. We watched their game the other night on the livestream – they scored a variety of different ways so we’ve got to be on our toes at all times and be locked into what we need to do.”
The Warriors defeated Botkins 4-0 on Saturday to earn the trip to the state semifinals game against the Pirates.
Estep said falling behind in the first half of Saturday’s win over Grandview Heights had a positive undertone and demonstrated the team’s will to come from behind.
“We had fallen behind in the game against Unioto and came back,” he said. “So, we were able to draw from that experience.”
Aaron Jolly, the Pirates leading scorer on the year with 48 goals and 117 for his career, did not score in Saturday’s win.
“Other teams at this level have tried to limit him and we’ve had other players step up,” Estep said. “We’ve had to be creative and find different ways to get him touches and he’s accepted that because he’s an unselfish player. He feeds the other players in position to score, like he did with Braxton (against Grandview Heights).”
Sammons is the team’s second leading scorer with 12 goals and came out for the high school team his junior year. He is an all-conference high school football placekicker and wanted to play soccer this season.
The match begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.