From left, Aaron Armstrong, Mac Church and Zach Tansel lead Anthony Wayne's celebration of a Division I regional title. Anthony Wayne's Aaron Armstrong, who scored the game's only goal, is pulled by North Royalton's Bobi Cancar.
ASHLAND, Ohio - It didn't take long for Chip Smith to take Anthony Wayne into unchartered territory.
Try one season.
The fifth-ranked Generals are headed to the Division I boys soccer state semifinals after knocking off North Royalton 1-0 in a regional championship match yesterday at Ashland Community Soccer Stadium.
Aaron Armstrong provided the only goal when he came up with a loose ball and dribbled his way past a couple of North Royalton defenders before firing a shot from 10 yards past North Royalton's goalie into the back of the net with 14:52 remaining in the game.
It was only Armstrong's fifth goal of the season. But it stands as the most memorable one of the season right now for the Generals.
"The importance of this goal is pretty big, so it's probably the most important one of them all," said Armstrong, who typically serves more as a distributor for the Generals.
However, when the opportunity came to make a play in a scoreless contest, Armstrong didn't hesitate.
"I kind of read the play and let it develop in the back and there was good pressure up by the forwards and I took the ball away," Armstrong recalled. "I was looking for somebody to pass to but it just wasn't there, so I decided to take a shot."
Smith credited Armstrong, who leads the team with 10 assists, for his take-charge approach to think like a scorer player on the game-deciding goal.
"Aaron Armstrong had an amazing individual effort,"
Smith said. "We'd been talking the last couple of days about going low and to the side if you're going to beat this keeper. He put it right where that kid had no chance of getting it."
The Generals (18-0-3) held off the Bears (11-4-6) over the remaining minutes to reach the state semifinals. AW will meet Cleveland St. Ignatius (17-1-3) Tuesday at Rocky River.
"I think the boys themselves have always believed that they probably - not only can -
deserved to be here," Smith said. "They played in the second half like they deserved to go on. We really notched it up and really went after them.
"It wasn't pretty soccer but we did what we knew we needed to do."
AW proved to be the aggressor throughout the match, recording 11 shots on goal compared to five for North Royalton. Mac Church recorded two saves for AW.
"This is huge for us, something we've never accomplished at the school," Church said. "The district title was huge for us but we didn't want to stop there, so we're trying to take this all the way.
"We did a good job today and got it done. I didn't have to do too much. The forwards, midfielders and defenders did a good job."
Smith believes Church gives them the kind of security a team needs at this stage in the season.
"Mac has just been a real steady influence the whole season," Smith said. "He's just been steady. That's what he's there for and that's what he does.
"It's nice to know when you're up 1-0 that you've got a kid back there that's going to make some saves and keep the game in check for you."
North Royalton's scouting report on Armstrong did not consider him a prominent scoring threat. The Bears' plan was to keep Mike Mangotic and Logan Lipinski from beating them.
"One mistake, one goal, that was the difference in the game," North Royalton coach Zoran Mladenovich said. "They wanted to go over the top with [Mangotic] and [Lipinski]. We came to play with them and we shut them down and then they tried to make a couple of adjustments and so did we.
"That was a very unlikely goal scored and an unlikely mistake as well. That's not typical to make a mistake like that and let a guy go through like that and just keeping backing up. Someone should have stepped up and even taken a foul."