By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Let there be no doubt, West Virginia.
Oak Hill’s boys soccer team is for real.
Combining individual heroics with solid team play, the 7-0-1 Red Devils defeated Woodrow Wilson 4-0 Thursday night at the YMCA’s Paul Cline Stadium.
“From every referee, and everyone else I’ve talked to, that is the first win over Woodrow in Oak Hill history,” coach Kyle Kent said. “It’s a huge win for our school.”
The Red Devils moved the ball well, particularly after the first 20 minutes, and scored on four of their six shots on goal.
But their biggest play might have been made by goalkeeper Brett Garris, who made a leaping, fingertip save early in the game on a shot by the Flying Eagles’ Keegan Rose.
“The final score was 4-0, but that might have been the game saver,” Rose said. “Soccer is a game of momentum, and if that ball had gotten in, it might have rallied Woodrow’s fans and players and potentially have deflated our team.”
Rose had fired a high, looping bullet from 15 yards to the right. Garris stretched as high as he could and flicked the ball over and away from the net.
“It was an absolutely huge save,” Kent said. “It was one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Oak Hill broke the scoring deadlock in the 32nd minute when junior Ian Hunt nailed a direct kick from 25 yards out.
Woodrow keeper Josh Moore could do little as the ball sailed high over him.
“I was just going to place it to the far post and hope for the best,” Hunt said. “I’ve done it a couple of times in practice, but not in a game.”
Hunt had told Kent in practice this week that he never scores against good teams.
“I think we just changed that,” Kent said. “It was probably our most beautiful set piece shot we’ve had all year. It was an absolutely perfectly placed ball.”
Flying Eagles coach Rockey Powell said, “We played the first half well, but they got a goal on a looping ball. We had the same ball, and their keeper got it.”
While the teams had played mostly even during the first half, Oak Hill took command in the second. Two of the three goals were on counterattacks.
“We like to play possession offense, and Woodrow was putting heavy pressure on us,” Kent said. “So at halftime, we decided to turn it around and see how well they could handle the pressure. The strategy worked for us.”
Senior all-stater Jacob Kemlock, who moved from center-forward to center-midfielder for the game, sandwiched two goals around a third from Andrew Hardman.
The second goal occurred just before the game was stopped for 30 minutes by a nearby lightning strike.
“Jacob really turned it on in the second half, as the entire team did,” Kent said. “That (second) goal he scored was a beautiful thing, an absolute rip shot with a nice bend on it from open space.
“The moment the ball hit the net, lightning cracked behind it. That was pretty awesome timing.”
Following the break, at the 65-minute mark, Woodrow played with better intensity and had several chances. Garris rose to the occasion, however, making two saves. He had four for the game.
“I told them to come out, work on a goal, and play with pride,” Powell said. “We played well the last 13 minutes. What happened in between the first half and last 13 minutes, I have no idea.
“We had two guys out (Ryan Thompson was injured against Winfield while Jordan Wright’s grandmother passed away), but that’s no excuse. We depend on guys to step up, and in the first half they did.
“The second half, Oak Hill came out a little more intense than we did. Give them their due. They’re a good team.”
Woodrow will play Saturday at Cabell Midland.
Oak Hill will travel to PikeView on Tuesday.
— E-mail: dstillwell