BECKLEY, W.Va. (WV News) — There can be beauty in a slugfest.
That was certainly true on Saturday morning in the West Virginia Class A/AA boys soccer championship game, where 45 fouls, two red cards shown to assistant coaches and a pair of soft red cards handed out to players were obscured by seven goals, five in the final 20 minutes, in a 4-3 adrenaline rush of an overtime win by Charleston Catholic over Point Pleasant.
Sully Groom supplied the golden goal in the 84th minute, hitting a loose ball from Samuel Delgra’s corner kick as hard as he could into the back of the net.
“I don’t even remember what happened,” Groom said. “I just kind of ran.”
“It can’t end any better than this,” first-year Irish coach Joe Johns said. “Hats off to Point Pleasant. They didn’t pack it in. They didn’t give up. They gave us a battle the whole way through.”
Point Pleasant scored three goals in less than 15 minutes to force overtime after trailing 2-0.
It started simply enough as chances were at a premium before Groom scored from a Delgra through ball with just 93 seconds left in the first half.
“It was pretty important. It got us going for the second half,” Groom said.
“We got the break,” Johns said. “Then we tweaked some things and it created opportunities.”
The Irish added on in the 46th minute as Billy Ford fired home a shot from the left side of the box.
Point Pleasant was reduced to 10 players in the 59th minute as Kanaan Abbas was shown a second yellow card.
But the adversity, and a tactical change, only served to galvanize the Black Knights.
“With 30 minutes left in the game, we went away from four in the back, pushed Ian Wood up as another forward and played a diamond in the back,” Point Pleasant coach Chip Wood said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to put some pressure on them and score some goals. I don’t think they were ready to deal with two forwards.”
Left back Caden Barger launched a perfect diagonal ball into the run of Ian Wood and he finished his first goal of the season in the 64th minute.
“I honestly don’t think we’ve faced that situation outside of a couple of minutes against George Washington when we played them early in the season,” Johns said of playing a man up. “We tried to make a few adjustments, not much.”
It seemed like the burst would be short-lived when Delgra scored in the 69th minute, but PP goalkepeer Brecken Louden made several key saves to keep his team in the game.
“He was in a keeper battle all year,” coach Wood said. “We alternated keepers for 16 or 17 games. Our other one is just as good.”
The other way, Ian Wood scored again off of a rebound in the 74th minute.
“That’s my son,” coach Wood said. “He showed up really big in the spring in the state track meet and scored 12 points that were not expected of him. I just thought, maybe he’s got the touch?”
Then, with Charleston Catholic trying to kill off the final minutes, Irish center back William Ball was shown a second yellow in the 69th minute, then, after the enusing free kick was saved, an indirect free kick was awarded just inside the 18-yard box after the Irish goalkeeper held onto the ball too long.
“I think we got a little lax,” Johns said.
Enter Ian Wood again, as he tapped the ball to exchange student Nick Cichon-Lederhose, who fired the tying goal home.
“When you’re that close to the goal and you have someone that can crack a ball at 50, 60 miles an hour…all you have to do is touch it,” coach Wood said. “I was positive if we got the kick off we would get something there. That was actually the most sure I was the whole game.”
“They deserved to be here,” Johns said. “They didn’t roll over when we got up 2-0 and 3-1. They kept coming after us.”
It’s a blow that would have staggered most teams, but Charleston Catholic proved it isn’t most teams.
“We just kept believing and didn’t give up,” Groom said.
“I think it’s more than that. He embodies it,” Johns said. “He’s an exceptional player, great work ethic, team-first mentality.”
Point Pleasant lost for just the second time, finishing with a 22-2-1 record, while Charleston Catholic, losers in the final last year to Fairmont Senior, is on top of the mountain at 18-3-2.
“We really proved what we’re about…that we’re the best team in the state,” Johns said.
Sports Editor Michael Minnich can be reached at 304-626-1443, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @michaelminnich
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