Anthony Wayne celebrates its Division I regional soccer championship. The Generals are 17-0-4.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
SANDUSKY — If anyone arrived a bit late to Saturday’s Division I regional boys soccer final between second-ranked Anthony Wayne and Medina at Sandusky’s Strobel Field, they missed the only play that counted.
In a startling opening to the match, Anthony Wayne needed just 12 seconds to take a lead on the stunned Battling Bees, and senior Andrew Yokum’s goal stood up for the remaining 79 minutes, 48 seconds of the Generals’ 1-0 victory.
The win sends Anthony Wayne (17-0-4) to its second state semifinal in six seasons.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more photos from the game
“Just like we drew it up,” joked Anthony Wayne coach Brian Billings. “You get a ball in and all of a sudden you’re up a goal. And then to go 79 minutes without a goal was just intense.
“That’s the playoffs right there. One moment can be all the difference. Then we had a couple of those moments where [Medina] almost had it. Luckily we just held on long enough to get ourselves a good result and move on.”
The Generals — who lost to eventual 2008 D-I state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius (2-0) in their only prior trip to the final four — will face third-ranked Mentor (17-0-4) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined. Mentor topped Massillon Jackson 1-0 in another regional final Saturday.
Off the opening kick, AW senior A.J. Witte fed Yokum with a high-bouncing pass up the left side. Yokum surprisingly found himself free for a one-on-one break on Medina goalkeeper Dean McNeil, and he zipped a right-footed kick into the net from inside the 18-yard box.
“I was just in shock,” Yokum said. “I didn’t expect the ball to bounce over that [Bees defender’s] head. It was awesome. I’m still surprised.
“Twelve seconds in is hard to do. I thought we’d attack more and put some more in, but it just didn’t happen. I’m so glad I finished there. Sometimes during the season I had trouble finishing. This is just awesome. We did it.”
After that early salvo, the game settled into the defensive battle that was anticipated between two teams that had surrendered a combined 14 goals in 40 games this season. Four of those came against each other when they played to a 2-2 tie Aug. 25 at Medina (11-2-8).
Midway in the second half, the momentum, if not the scoreboard, swung decidedly in Medina’s favor as the Bees mounted several solid attacks.
Noah Hastings took a feed from Jacob Schaefer in the 55th minute, but was turned away by AW goalkeeper Austin Kaminski.
Two minutes later, the Generals avoided what looked to be a certain tying goal on a try inside the six-yard box from Austin Horvath. With Kaminski pulled away from the goal mouth, AW senior Grant Oliver came to the rescue, heading the ball down just as it was ready to cross the goal line. Philip Reed booted the ball away to prevent a rebound attempt.
“It was really close,” Oliver said. “I just had to make sure it wasn’t going in and the team stayed alive. You do your best. It’s really all or nothing, so you give it your everything.
“They were definitely coming on strong, and that was a scrappy team. We pulled out a win luckily.”
In the 64th minute, the Bees’ Leizert had a another golden opportunity, but produced only a weakly struck header, enabling Kaminski to make the save.
In the 71st minute, Anthony Wayne was able to sustain some offense in the Medina end and slow some of the Bees’ momentum.
Generals junior Jacob Bores sent a cross from the right side to senior Ben Conkin on a 3-on-2 break, but Conkin’s try sailed high over the goal in the 75th minute. Conkin was then high on another straight-on shot from 20 yards out with 3:15 remaining after Yokum made a break down the left side.
From there, it was all about killing clock and advancing.
“That was just last-ditch defending,” Billings said of hanging on. “We have experienced guys in the back, and they’ll put their bodies on the line to get the ball out. That’s what you saw there.
“We’re just happy to move on and have the opportunity to play again.”