At 5-foot-5, Woodrow Wilson’s Casey Young doesn’t have the long arms and stride of most goalkeepers.
On the other hand, his reflexes are first rate.
Young deflected a shot by Oak Hill’s Austin Nolen at nearly point-blank range Thursday to preserve a 1-0 victory in the championship game of the Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 tournament at Paul Cline Stadium.
“Casey had the game-saver,” coach Rockey Powell said. “The thing about Casey is he’s real quick, and he has one of the biggest hearts. I can’t say enough about him.”
Young’s desperation lunge thwarted what looked like a sure goal by Nolen, who received a ball in the box, sidestepped a defender and then fired, just in front of the goal.
“They hit a ball over and (the defender) misjudged it. The ball came around him and came on me,” Young said. “I thought, ‘I’m beat!’
“I just stuck my leg out and, luckily, he hit it.”
It was the ninth shutout in Woodrow’s last 11 games. Powell said Young has been “stellar” during the run.
“Casey’s hands are very good, and he plays a lot bigger than he is. He has a nice goal kick, and he distributes the ball well,” he said. “If he was 6-4, he’d be the perfect package.”
Young’s save, early in the second half, made Branson DeWese’s goal in the 32nd minute stand up. The Flying Eagles dominated the first 40 minutes, but Oak Hill’s own standout goalkeeper, Brett Garris, stopped two of three shots on goal.
He was unlucky on the third, as a loose ball was batted around and DeWese slotted the ball past him from 8 feet out.
“It was a game of halves,” Powell said. “We were lucky to get one in.”
Oak Hill had chances early. On back-to-back corner kicks, the ball landed into the box, but three Red Devil shot attempts bounced off Woodrow defenders. They would not threaten again the rest of the half.
First-year coach Kyle Kent made a key halftime change, moving all-state sophomore forward Jacob Kemlock to center-midfielder.
Kemlock distributed the ball well, and the Red Devils outshot Woodrow 3-1.
“We were losing the battle in midfield,” he said. “We didn’t produce much, and it was causing them to keep pressure on us.”
Now it was the Red Devils who controlled possession, but the shots still wouldn’t fall — partly because of Young, partly due to bad luck.
Midway through, one shot went just wide of the goal, while another, a direct kick from just outside the box, went high over the net.
“It came down to an lucky break they got,” Kent said. “We made the adjustments in the second half, but we couldn’t get it in.”
DeWese, who had scored the first goal in a 2-0 semifinal win Tuesday over Greenbrier East, had three of Woodrow’s four shots on goal. Garris finished with three saves. Corey Accord had the other Flying Eagle shot.
Nolen, Grant Whitmore and Kemlock had Oak Hill’s shots on-frame, all stopped by Young.
“You have to pay attention all the time. If you take one second off, they’ll beat you,” Young said. “You have to work harder and stay a lot closer to the goal than (taller) goalies.”
Oak Hill finishes the campaign at 6-10-2.
“It’s not the most impressive record in the world, but I’m proud of my team,” Kent said. “We started 1-6, and to come back and get into the sectional championship game speaks volumes about them.”
Powell added, “Oak Hill played very well. I have to compliment them. They have a good program, and the coach is doing a good job with them.”
Woodrow (9-7-4) advances to the Region 3 championship game next Thursday in Charleston against either South Charleston or George Washington. The game could be moved to Wednesday.
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Woodrow Wilson 1, Oak Hill 0
Scoring: WW Branson DeWese (unassisted, 32nd minute). Shots on goal: OH 3 (Austin Nolen, Grant Whitmore, Jacob Kemlock), WW 4 (DeWese 3, Corey Accord). Goalkeeper saves: OH Brett Garris 3, WW Casey Young 3. Corner kicks: OH 3, WW 5. Fouls: OH 11, WW 10. Offsides: OH 0, WW 2. Yellow cards: WW DeWese, OH Garrett Mullins.