GRAFTON— After a long and grueling defensive battle, it would be Senior Captain Cody Abraham’s lone goal in second overtime that won the Region II Section I Championship title for the Grafton Bearcats on Saturday afternoon.
The title game pinned the Bearcats up against the Robert C. Byrd Eagles on Grafton’s home turf and was an intense fight from start to finish.
With back-and-forth midfield play between the two competitors, not many shots were taken during the first part of action, as opportunities the Bearcats would start to create would be disrupted by the Eagles.
At the halftime break, the contest remained scoreless.
Coming out of the break, Grafton saw more possession to start the second half, but still struggled to land the ball in the back of the net.
And just when the Bearcats thought their luck had changed when Abraham sent a free kick shot into the back of the net, an offsides call was made by an official and retracted the goal.
This would end regulation play with no score and send the game into overtime, where the first team to score would claim victory.
Determined to win the title, the Bearcats amped up their offensive efforts and were able to maintain control for the first 10-minute overtime, however, Grafton was still unable to make the much-needed connection with the back of the net.
Having kept the Eagles on the defense for most of play, RCB also remain unable to send the ball into the net, and first overtime ended with no score on the board.
This would soon change, and the fate of the game would be sealed in favor of Grafton.
Just five minutes into the second overtime, Abraham received a cross pass from fellow Bearcat Colton Sanders just outside of the box.
Upon reception, Abraham would connect with the ball perfectly, sending it past the RCB goalie and into the back of the net, securing the hard-fought win for the Bearcats.
While it was Abraham’s goal that sealed the deal, the win was an example of true teamwork, as the Bearcats worked together to retain possession, and apply a defensive pressure that in the end, the Eagles proved unable to handle, as RCB only took two shots, both of which were saved by Bearcat goalkeeper Bryson Kittle.
The Bearcats were able to take 14 shots and racked up nearly 30 steals on the day.
In addition to the excellent display of teamwork, and hustle assistant coach Jack Wolverton also credited the fans for giving the team the boost they needed to keep going strong after the tiring regulation and difficult first overtime.
“This was a hard-fought win and was a great game to watch,” he expressed. “I truly believe that the loud student section that we had present made the difference for us, especially as loud as they were cheering in the OT time.”
With the win, the Bearcats were crowned Sectional Champs for the first time since 2016 and for the first time since then, will move on for a chance at the Region II Champion title.
Grafton faced off again Herbert Hoover, last night at Philip Barbour High School hoping to prevail once more against a tough opponent.
Due to press deadlines, the results of the Region II Championship contest will appear in an upcoming edition of the Mountain Statesman.
Individual player stats: Cody Abraham: 1 goal, 2 shots, Landen Hulley: 2 shots, 6 steals, Spencer Copeland: 6 shots, Layne England: 2 shots, Gage McVicker: 5 steals, Colton Sanders: 1 assist, 1 shot, 3 steals, Zach Nibert: 3 steals, Levi Miller: 4 steals, Gavin Wolverton: 1 shot, 4 steals, Devin Weaver: 2 steals, Bryson Kittle: 2 saves