SANDUSKY — Only once since the season began in late summer has Southview enjoyed perfect attendance at soccer practice.
A rash of injuries has shaken up its roster, an inconvenience that on Saturday provided somewhat of a silver lining. The Cougars, competing without their best player in their most important test of the season, did not appear the least bit daunted. A resilient team centered on senior leadership captured its first regional title in school history in a gutsy 3-1 victory over Westlake at Strobel Field to advance to the state final four.
With a few days to rest, the team’s top goal scorer Daniel Blackmar could return in time for a semifinal matchup at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Aurora. The Greenmen advanced with a 1-0 decision over Lakewood St. Edward.
In Blackmar’s stead, senior Jared Yoshino scored two goals and assisted on the other. His second score came with two seconds left against an empty net.
"It’s a great feeling to know that Southview has never done this before," Yoshino said. "Being the team that does it is a great feeling."
Both of Yoshino’s goals were a bit fluky, and the same might be said for the one in which he assisted. He beat goalkeeper Jamie Lackner in the 26th minute despite slipping and striking the ball with feeble power. Lackner seemed in decent position but the ball slipped under his hands.
"It wasn’t a great shot, but for a bigger goalie playing on turf, sometimes the ball takes weird skips off of the turf," Southview coach Chad Cody said. "It kind of squeezed by him."
Added Yoshino: "I was falling down and I just kicked it. I was shocked, but it went in."
The Cougars (15-3) went ahead 2-0 midway through the second half when Yoshino hit a cross from left of the net. The ball danced on the line in front for what seemed to be minutes before Southview’s Ismeal Gad, jousting with a defender, tapped it in. It was Gad’s fifth goal of the year.
"We know we have someone down," Yoshino said, referring to Blackmar. "We know if we don’t win that will be the last game and the player won’t be back on the field. He’s one of our main players and for him to come back and play with us this next game is a great feeling."
Westlake (10-5-2) tightened the deficit to 2-1 in the 27th minute of the second half on Nick Wertman’s penalty kick.
Cody declined to disclose specifics of the injuries Blackmar sustained Wednesday in a 2-1 semifinal win against previously unbeaten Anthony Wayne, offering simply "he has a couple of injuries" and "we hope to have him back." Blackmar, one of 19 seniors, leads the team with 27 goals.
Assuming the scoring void against Anthony Wayne was Jared Lyle, who notched his first two goals of the season. On Saturday, Yoshino, the team’s secondary scoring threat who also has battled an injury, took control of a difficult situation. With four days until they play again, the Cougars plan to rest and try to get Blackmar back. Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to practice with their entire team.
"It’s a good break for us," Yoshino said. "We’ll be resting, icing up, and doing some therapy to get back at it."