GRAFTON—The Grafton High School (GHS) Boys Soccer team has been dominating the turf lately, and in an impressive showing, the Bearcats earned the title of Sectional and Regional Champions.
To start sectional action, the Cats welcomed the Lincoln Cougars to the turf at McKinney Field for the Region II Section I semifinal game on October 20, and GHS walked away victorious.
From the start of the game, the Bearcats dominated the pace of the game, controlling the ball throughout the majority of the first half of play. However, the Cougars weren’t willing to tuck tail and hide in defeat, and instead, they stood their ground, preventing multiple Bearcat attempts on goal.
The Cats, determined to see success, were the first to strike, putting a goal on the board at the 14-minute mark of play. The made goal came off of the foot of Jude Minard from 12-yards out, who was given the ball off of a cross from Spencer Copeland.
A little over a minute later, the Cats would strike again when Layne England found Colton Sanders for a nice shot past the Lincoln Keeper. The Bearcats advanced their lead over the Cougars to 2-0.
Minard would once again make a play for GHS, when he snagged a poorly passed Cougar ball and sent it into the back of the net, once again lengthening the Bearcats’ lead.
In an impressive turnaround, England claimed his second goal of the game, after a nice pass from Adrian Joyce, just 40 seconds later.
The Cats were even quicker to place another ball past the Lincoln Keeper and claimed yet another goal within the 22-minute mark of play, when Minard delivered a corner to Joyce, who punched the ball into the net.
Grafton entered halftime with a dominating 5-0 lead over Lincoln.
The Cats came out strong in the second half, with continued possession of the ball, and seven minutes into action, Minard played a ball across the goal that England placed first touch into the corner of the goal for a hat trick.
Five minutes later, Sanders was able to steal the ball from a Cougar defender. With the ball at his feet, he found a waiting Copeland, who made a hard shot into the goal for the Cats. The score now sat at 7-0 in favor of Grafton.
For the remainder of the second half, the Cats continued to sub out their players, and when the final whistle sounded, Grafton had claimed the W for the first round of section play, advancing them to the finals.
“Overall, we played well passed very well, with some good scoring,” voiced Assistant Coach Jack Wolverton. “We are playing very well as an unselfish team. In the last four games, the Bearcats have scored 23 goals and had 1 scored against them, and that is because of the way the boys are working together.”
Ready for a rematch after losing 1-0 during regular season play, the Cats traveled to Clarksburg on October 22 to meet up with the Robert C. Byrd (RCB) Flying Eagles in the Region II Section I Finals.
Grafton, touting better stats in every category, were hungry for redemption and worked to control the ball after the first whistle sounded.
Throughout the duration of regulation play, both teams worked to not only defend their goals, but put points on the board. However, after intense back-and-forth play, after the 40 minutes had passed, neither team scored.
“We had several chances on goal, but their defense held strong,” Wolverton reported. “We knew they would play very direct and hope to get a good bounce, but our defense held strong once again.”
The Bearcats and Eagles went head-to-head in not just one, but two overtime periods, but again, neither team was able to find the back of the net.
Because the game was set to decide who would advance in playoffs, a winner had to be found, so the teams headed into a penalty kick shootout situation.
After winning the toss, RCB elected to kick first, and were able to sink all of their first five kicks. The Bearcats, determined to claim victory over the Eagles, matched the made kicks, goal for goal. It would be Copeland, England, Sanders, Minard and Landen Hulley to sank shots for the Cats.
Tensions mounted as an RCB player prepared his shot, the sixth for his team. His foot found the ball and sent it flying toward the Bearcat goal, but the quick actions of senior and starting Keeper Bryson Kittle saved the day, when the shot was stopped short of the goal.
“He was then asked to take the next kick from the spot for the Bearcats,” Wolverton disclosed. “He promptly made a great shot past the Byrd Keeper for a Grafton High School victory!”
With the win, the Bearcats claimed the title of Region II Section I Champions for the second year in a row.
The Cats were back in action, on Thursday night against the Lewis County Minutemen in the Region II Championship game.
The home contest resulted in another title for the GHS Boys Soccer Team—Regional Champs! With the claimed victory, the Bearcats will advance to the state semifinal game to be held in Beckley on November 4.
A recap of the regional action will be presented in an upcoming edition of the Mountain Statesman.