By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
George Washington goalkeeper Garrett Phillips knew something was going to have to give in the Patriots’ Class AAA state championship match with Parkersburg Saturday morning.
He just didn’t expect it to go the way it did.
With both teams scoreless late in the match, a Parkersburg defender was called for a handball in the box, setting up a Peter Nelson penalty kick.
Nelson buried it past Big Reds keeper Reid Strobl to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead in the 76th minute and the eventual championship victory.
“It’s awesome, man,” he said. “I just went up and took it. My team told me to take it and I made it.”
It was something GW coach Tom Hopper had prepared for, with it being late in the match and a shootout a possibility.
“Here’s my list for the PKs,” Hopper said with a laugh, pulling a slip of paper from his jacket, which had Nelson’s name at the top. “You get to this point and you have to be prepared.”
While the goal was enough to put GW’s name in the history books as the state champion, it was one fueled by controversy that led to tempers flaring and Parkersburg forward Evans Rhodes receiving a red card after the match was over as he argued with officials, then proceeded to damage the team tent on the sidelines.
“I mean, it was a clear call. The kid just about caught it,” Hopper said. “I think back to a couple weeks ago and we played them in the MSAC. We had a handball called on us and it tied the game up. I guess turnabout is fair.”
It was a back-and-forth battle for much of the match, with neither team budging on defense.
And as Phillips had said, something was going to have to give sooner or later.
The senior keeper had no doubt, though, that it would be in his team’s favor.
“They were bringing a lit of pressure,” he said. “But my defense was playing a great game. They were getting shots off we could handle.”
The win gave Phillips a championship, as well as a personal goal.
“My goal at the beginning of the season was to get 19 shutouts,” he said. “After sectionals and regionals I didn’t think it would happen. Two straight shutouts in the playoffs is hard to do. All credit goes to my defense. I got my goal.”
Hopper, the Class AAA boys coach of the year, was gracious in victory.
“Ya know, it was a hard fought game both ways,” he said. “We knew someone would get a lucky break. I feel sorry for the other team losing on a PK like that. That’s part of the game.
“They’ve got a very well coached team year in and year out,” he continued. “They produce very, very good teams. Each team had a lot of chances; we got a lucky break with the handball.”
Parkersburg coach Don Fosselman, who missed the regional final and state semifinal due to yellow cards in the sectional, refused to speak to the media or make his team available for comment following the game.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.