By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Tough defense. Winning balls in the midfield. Supporting the attack.
Those were the hallmarks of Oak Hill’s 4-0 victory Sept. 12 over Woodrow Wilson.
The Flying Eagles were completely outplayed, and they knew it.
“Our players took that loss personally,” coach Rockey Powell said.
Woodrow returned the favor in Thursday’s Class AAA, Region 3, Section 2 final, blanketing Oak Hill’s stellar attack, winning 50-50 balls in the middle and showing prowess on attack in a 2-0 victory at Paul Cline Stadium.
“That’s the way they’re capable of playing,” Powell said of the 13-5-3 Flying Eagles. “The last seven or eight games they’ve been building, and they really stepped up tonight.”
It was the first loss of the season for the Red Devils, who conclude their year at 17-1-2.
“All good things have to come to an end,” second-year coach Kyle Kent said. “Give (the Flying Eagles) credit. They stepped to the ball harder, and they found the back of the net.”
Both teams had opportunities, but only the Flying Eagles capitalized on them.
Oak Hill failed to take advantage of two early corner kicks, and Joel Bracken’s breakaway went for naught when his shot was safely corralled by Woodrow senior goalkeeper Josh Moore.
Woodrow had a header taken close-in to bounce harmlessly off to the side. Minutes later, Oak Hill keeper Brett Garris raced up to take the ball from a charging Ryan Thompson.
Oak Hill made the first mistake, as a defender brought wing Keegan Rose down in the left side of the box.
Garris managed to block the ensuing penalty kick by Zach Johnson, but the ball slipped out of his grasp and an alert Johnson banged it home in the 33rd minute.
Woodrow added to its lead early in the second half, when Cory Acord found Rose in the box. The sophomore, starting in place of Jordan Wright (who had received a red card in the sectional win over Princeton Tuesday), ripped a shot past Garris from 20 yards out for a 2-0 lead.
“That second goal was a great shot from far out,” Kent said.
Powell was obviously delighted.
“We were a man down, and Keegan stepped off the bench and played a quality game tonight,” he said.
Woodrow had two more shots on goal in the half, by Acord and Thompson, but Garris made good stops on both.
Moore made the save of his career midway through the half. Bracken bounced a shot that made Moore lunge backward to punch behind the goal.
Oak Hill would not threaten again. The Red Devils were unable to find senior All-Stater Jacob Kemlock, who entered the game with 30 goals.
“We didn’t put together the quality of attacks I would have liked,” Kent said. “We had some open shots and didn’t put them in, and their goalie made some good saves.”
Kemlock added, “Woodrow had a game plan to high-press us and keep us off the ball. They did a good job of it.”
Powell said the Flying Eagles had an eye on Kemlock all game.
“We didn’t want him and (Ian Hunt) roaming loose and getting the ball. We had to know where they were at all times, because they are dangerous,” Powell said. “If we’d let them get the momentum going forward, we knew we’d be in trouble.”
The Flying Eagles finished with a 5-3 advantage in shots on goal, while Oak Hill took seven corner kicks to none for Woodrow. The Red Devils committed 14 fouls to the Flying Eagles’ 21.
Woodrow will play the Section 1 winner Tuesday at a time and place to be determined.
“We’ve had two good games in the sectional,” Powell said. “I hope we continue to play this well.”
Oak Hill will graduate 12 seniors, including eight starters.
“We’ll have some big shoes to fill,” Kent said. “I’ll have to rebuild my defense, but offensively, we’ll be pretty good.
“We’ll have good players coming back, so I don’t want to call it a rebuilding year.”
— E-mail: dstillwell