STEUBENVILLE - The bus transporting the St. Clairsville boys' soccer team to Harding Stadium for its Division II sectional tournament game with Harrison Central Wednesday night was delayed by blasting in the construction zone on Ohio 7 between Rayland and Mingo Junction.
However, the third-seeded Red Devils (10-4-1) didn't show any ill effects as they scored on a penalty kick in the second minute and tacked on five more goals in the first half en route to a 6-2 blasting of the Huskies (6-9-1) on the Reno Field turf.
With the victory, St. Clairsville advanced to Tuesday night's clash with top-seeded Minerva (12-5) back at the Steubenville facility. The start time is 6 p.m. with that winner moving on to a one-game district final against the Beaver Local-Steubenville winner. That game is scheduled for Oct. 26, also in Steubenville.
CENTRAL’S David Forrester (26) and St. Clairsville’s Zach Oliver race after a loose ball during Wednesday’s Divsion II sectional game at Steubenville’s Harding Stadium. The Red Devils prevailed, 6-2, and will take on Minerva on Tuesday. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"We wanted to jump out strong, and we did," St. Clairsville head coach Gary Watt said. "We were clicking on all cylinders and a lot of good things were happening. I was able to get everyone in the game, and that's always good."
The Huskies, which eliminated Cambridge in their first-ever OHSAA sectional game earlier in the week, were called for a handball in the box in the second minute.
St. Clairsville senior Taylor Wissmann lined up for the penalty kick and drilled the ball along the rug to the left of Harrison Central goalkeeper Logan Starr. Starr made a lunging effort, but the ball was already behind him for a 1-0 count.
Just over a minute later, junior Zach Oliver chipped the ball over top of Starr from 15 yards out after taking a pass from Ty Boone. That made it 2-0 and was the first of four net-finders on the night for Oliver, which gives him 22 for the season.
Harrison Central finally was able to get a shot on goal when Conner Pecar got behind the Red Devils' solid defense and fired a shot that goalkeeper Izaac Wiley made a diving stop on before covering up in the 22nd minute.
Oliver completed his natural hat trick when he pounded the ball into the back of the net after the Huskies weren't able to clear it from their zone.
Boone made it 5-0 when his shot from a nearly impossible angle on the right wing found its way into the back of the net. The laser scooted along the carpet and trickled through Starr's legs.
Oliver completed his fine night and his team's scoring when he got behind the Huskies' back line and let loose a shot that was too hot for Starr to handle. Wissmann logged the assist.
"Zach had a good night, but we put a lot of emphasis on playing as a team," Watt added. "We put on the hard hat and go to work. Tonight we did just that."
With the game out of reach, Watt substituted freely in the second half.
"We rotated a lot of kids in and out of the game in the second half," he said.
Harrison Central never gave up and eventually got on the scoreboard.
Pecar scored a pair of late goals for the Huskies to make it 6-2.
"Down 6-0 at the half, I told the kids to come out and play like the score was 0-0," Harrison Central head coach Eric Sheets said. "I wanted to see a good effort until the end, and the kids gave that.
"We battled until the end," he added. "I couldn't ask for anymore from this group. If you would've told me at the start of the season that we would win six games and tie another in our first year, I would've told you I'd be elated, and I am."
Wiley stopped both shots on goal that he faced before giving way to Devan Case midway through the second half.
Starr was credited with 10 saves, while Drew Mizer had two in relief.