DODSONVILLE – Both the Lynchburg-Clay boys and girls soccer teams claimed a coveted gold ball, symbolic of an undefeated season in Southern Hills Athletic Conference play, with victories Wednesday over cross-county rival Fairfield.
The Lynchburg-Clay boys blanked Fairfield 3-0 to secure the gold ball and SHAC championship for the third time in four years.
“We got the gold ball. This senior group, three out of four years they haven’t lost a league game. We tied with North Adams last year, that’s what kept us away from four straight with this group,” said Lynchburg-Clay coach Jason West.
The first half was a scoreless affair as the Mustang and Lion defenses performed well. The keepers for Lynchburg-Clay and Fairfield, Ian Waits and Hunter Burns, respectively, were on point in the first half as well to lead to a 0-0 halftime score.
“We know Lynchburg. We know how good they are. We know they are historically a second half team, they wear you out, and they pass really well and wear on you physically. Then by the time you get to the second half they take advantage of those opportunities,” Fairfield coach Jacob Alexander said.
True to form, the Mustangs came out in the second half with renewed energy and urgency and Kaden Harper broke the stalemate at the 35:36 mark of the second half to put Lynchburg ahead 1-0 despite an excellent effort by Burns for the Lions.
Waits, who was taken out of goal for the Mustangs to start the second half, recorded the second goal of the night with 33:01 to play in the game when he found the back of the net from 20 yards out and extended the Lynchburg-Clay lead to 2-0.
Dawson Osborn recorded the final goal of the game with 17 seconds to play that provided the final margin of 3-0 in favor of the home-standing Mustangs.
Despite allowing three goals in the second half, Burns was spectacular in the net for the Lions with numerous saves that allowed the Lions to hold the high-powered Mustangs to only three goals in the match.
“Hunter Burns in goal, he keeps us in a lot of games. He is still a junior so next year he will be more experienced and ready to go,” said Alexander. “We are a young team, we had one senior here tonight. We would have loved to win this game, but we are also still building for next year.”
The Mustangs celebrated Senior Night following the game and L-C head coach Jason West took time afterward to express his thankfulness for the seniors’ efforts throughout the season.
“Dawson Osborn had a goal in the game, Connor Tyree has been our leading scorer all year long, Josh Niehaus has stepped in and played tremendous on our back line as a defender,” West said. “Unfortunately, Hunter Balon and Brady Minton, our two seniors, were unable to be here tonight and we want to let them know we are thinking of them.”
Fairfield will be in action on Saturday, Oct. 17, when the Lions travel to Portsmouth-Clay High School for a first-round tournament matchup. If the Lions advance they will return to Lynchburg-Clay High School on Wednesday, Oct. 21 to take on the Mustangs in the second round of tournament play.
Following Senior Night activities, the Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs defeated Fairfield 7-1 to secure the gold ball trophy and SHAC title.
“I was a nervous wreck up at 4:30 this morning thinking about this game. We were talking last night how to move people around to cover spots and knowing that there were going to be some girls playing out there some big minutes that normally don’t get to play some of those big minutes. But, boy they did tonight and they played well,” said Lady Mustangs coach Dennis West.
Fairfield recorded the first goal of the game; however, it was an own goal — meaning the Lady Lions landed a goal in their own net — with 36:39 to play in the first half of the game that put the Lady Mustangs up 1-0.
Sierra Benney recorded the first of her five goals in the game and gave the Lady Mustangs a 2-0 lead at the 32:06 mark of the first half when she scored on a cross from Raelynn Ruble.
Fairfield found the back of the net when Kennedy Zink scored off of an assist from Cadence Saunders that brought the Lady Lions to within one goal at 2-1.
“When it was 2-1, once we battled back to get that goal, we were really working hard and then after that corner kick goal they had you could see a physical change in them,” said Lady Lions coach Jacob Alexander. “We are young and we need to learn from that.”
Benney added two more goals in the first half for the Lady Mustangs. The first came off a header that redirected a corner kick from Karlie Tipton with 11:27 to play. The second came six seconds later at 11:21 and gave L-C a 4-1 lead that it maintained until halftime.
A free kick from Tiah McLean led to Benney’s fourth goal of the match with 35:54 to play in the game and Tipton added another goal with just four seconds of game clock expiring that brought the score to 6-1 with 35:50 to play.
The Lady Mustangs scored their final goal of the game when Benney recorded her fifth and final goal of the match at the 23:53 mark of the second half. The goal tied Benney with former Lady Mustang standout Peyton Scott for the most goals in a single game and provided the final margin of victory for Lynchburg.
“Fairfield is having a great year and they have some really really tough people to try to defend,” said Dennis West.
“The girls were very confident about the abilities that they have and the abilities of their teammates to step in and fill in,” he added. “They were excited after this game got in-hand and there at the end they were very fired up to get that clean slate in the league and get that gold ball back. Congratulations to them and to all the kids who aren’t here. It was just a tremendous night for our soccer program.”
Ryan Applegate is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.