Greenbrier East’s defense was frustrating Woodrow Wilson.
While the Flying Eagles had dominated the opening half, they had managed just one shot on goal. They couldn’t go through the Spartans’ back four, and they couldn’t go around them.
But what about going over them?
Justin Johnson tested the theory 10 seconds into the second half, launching a 25-foot rocket from the right side of the box that the Spartans could only watch helplessly.
The ball sailed high into the back of the net for the first goal of a 3-0 Woodrow victory at Paul Cline Stadium.
“It was a good ball from Branson DeWese and Justin chipped it in there,” coach Rockey Powell said. “It was one of those shots you’re not sure if it was a shot or a cross, but it was a shot on the scoreboard.”
Powell had asked his team to keep plugging away at the Spartans.
“We had been around the goal and close to the goal,” he said. “We were knocking on the door and I knew if we kept the pressure up, we’d probably knock one in.”
The Flying Eagles (7-7-3) also scored in the 58th minute on a penalty kick by Luke Rodriguez, and in the 71st minute on another on a 20-footer by Colton Hatfield.
East coach Don Wise said his defense played well, but a couple of mistakes were killers.
“When you make a mistake on clearing the ball, it usually leads to bad things,” he said. “Two of their three goals were because we went to clear the ball, we made a mistake and they capitalized on it. Woodrow is a good team.”
It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise solid effort by the 5-13-2 Spartans’ defense. Goalkeeper Mac Breckenridge had four saves on the night, including a fully-extended, diving stop of a shot by Rodriguez midway through the second half.
“I couldn’t have asked them to play better than we did in the second half,” Wise said. “We’ve had some injuries on defense, and they guys who were playing really stepped it up.
“Our defense has been our strength the last half of the season, but we gave up that quick goal, and they let down their guard a little bit.”
Woodrow’s defense was superb all game, holding the Spartans without a shot on goal. Matt Sumpter and Jamie Rose made hustling plays in the box and down the right side, respectively, to break up East’s two most dangerous attacks.
The Flying Eagles also successfully defended six corner kicks, all in the first half.
“They guys back there bent a little bit, and gave up a lot of corner kicks early,” Powell said. “But they played well.”
Woodrow and East will meet for a third time, Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Paul Cline Stadium, in a semifinal game of the Class AAA Region 3, Section 3 tournament.
Besides the victory Thursday, the Flying Eagles also defeated the Spartans in a close one at Fairlea, 3-2.
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Woodrow Wilson 3, Greenbrier East 0
Scoring: WW Justin Johnson (Branson DeWese assist, 41st minute); WW Luke Rodriguez (penalty kick, 58); Colton Hatfield (71). Shots on goal: GE none; WW Zack Johnson, Justin Johnson, Rodriguez 2, Hatfield, DeWese, Dylan Harvey). Keeper saves: GE 4 (Mac Brackenridge 4), WW 0 (Casey Young). Corner kicks: GE 6, WW 2. Cards: None.