It was an ugly night for the beautiful game.
After a thick, quilt-like blanket of fog rolled over the field Tuesday evening, making it difficult for those on the field and in the stands to see the action, one team was left standing victorious after 80 minutes.
It was the Flying Eagles who will soar on to Thursday night’s Region 3, Section 2 final against Oak Hill, after disposing of the Princeton Tigers 2-0, despite the difficult conditions.
“It was kind of tough when the fog came in,” Woodrow Wilson coach Rocky Powell said. “It was hard to see. I missed a lot of the game on the other side of the field (from the Woodrow sideline).”
Moments before the first kick, the fog began to settle. By halftime, visibility was at a premium.
“It was bad conditions for both teams,” Princeton coach Steve Bailey said. “ Both teams had the same conditions. We probably would have been better off if the game hadn’t been played, but it didn’t make a difference. Neither team could see nothing, so what’s the difference?”
It was the Flying Eagles, who in their white shirts and shorts, used the fog to their advantage, knocking in a goal in the 39th minute off of the foot of Jordan Wright to head into the half with the lead.
But for Powell, that lead wasn’t enough.
“It’s always good to have the lead,” Powell explained. “It’s one of those things that if you go in with a lead, you better come back out playing just as hard. If you go in with a one-goal lead and you sit back for the first 20 minutes (of the second half), it’s not good.
“The next 20 minutes coming in after the half is very important. It’s always good to have that lead, but a one-goal lead isn’t much in a game like this.”
Bailey and the Tigers made an adjustment as well, bringing the recently activated Tahj Sho-Johnson up from the back line to the attack. Sho-Johnson, who has been a standout for the Princeton Tiger football team, was playing in his first match of the season, after waiting three weeks to get enough practices in to be eligible.
“We went to three backs instead of four backs and moved our fastest player (Sho-Johnson) up front,” Bailey explained. “We were just trying to get the game back to even.”
Instead it was Woodrow who found the net again, when Wright fed junior Zach Johnson in the 53rd minute for the decisive goal.
“We scrapped and played hard and came out with a victory,” Powell said after the match. “Princeton did the same thing; they banged the ball around. They banged us around a little bit, and they played hard, but I think our guys did, too.”
The win will give Powell and the Eagles a chance at redemption against Oak Hill.
The Red Devils knocked off Woodrow 4-0 on Sept. 19. It was only the third time in history that Oak Hill had ever defeated them.
“It’s going to be a barnburner,” Powell said. “I heard they played really well (against Greenbrier East). We’re going to have to get out there and get after them.”
Woodrow will be doing it without the services of one of its biggest playmakers.
Wright, a senior, will spend the match on the sideline after being served a red card in the 63rd minute for a hard challenge against a Tiger.
“That’s going to be really tough,” Powell said. “We’re going to miss Jordan for two games. It’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to have somebody step up.
“That’s part of playing. We have to have one of these guys step up and fill in for him.”
Woodrow and Oak Hill will take to the pitch at Paul Cline Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday.
It was an ugly night for the beautiful game.
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