Pirates play for an encore – Portsmouth Daily Times


WHEELERSBURG – So what will the Wheelersburg boys’ soccer team do for an encore?

Well, when you capture an ever-elusive regional championship for the first time in the history of the program, it’s pretty cool to try it again.

And, if you question these hackers – despite the loss of degrees and significant, if not historic, withdrawals – they seem determined, perhaps even determined, to repeat this feat.

“They’re always going to believe they can,” said eighth-year Wheelersburg head coach Jon Estep. “Much will depend on how quickly we grow throughout the season. Things are not going to happen as easily as they did last year. We’re not counting on a single kid to replace Aaron Jolly and all the goals he’s scored. Or Eric Green and as good as he was in goal with our back line in front of him. It’s going to be a collection of kids doing it.

Already, the 2021 Pirates are off to a perfect 4-0 start – both overall and in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II competition.

Estep said winning SOC II again is the first job, but opening up another outstanding tournament track – and even winning the region again – isn’t too far on his mind and that of his pirates.

But, only such high expectations can be met due to the daily improvement of this group of pirates – as well as the confidence factor of what Wheelersburg went through a season ago.

In fact, it wasn’t until August, in the middle of the month, that the Pirates knew for sure they would even have a season – thanks to the coronavirus situation and its impact on the full contact sports of the Ohio at this time.

The Pirates trained all summer like they were going to play and stayed healthy all fall.

Estep indeed said that just being there and following directions made a difference in their decorated 21-1 season, as their only loss was to eventual Division III state champion Cincinnati Mariemont, in the state semifinals.

The Division III District Championship was Wheelersburg’s eighth all-time, but its first since 2013.

Of course, winning the regional title was new to the program – and they accomplished it without any coronavirus quarantines.

“We didn’t know what to expect for the year due to COVID. Were we going to be able to play? Weren’t we going to play? How many games would we play? The football season was reversed four games (from 10 to six in the regular season) before the playoffs started. Thinking that we were going to play a full season and play 22 games and have the season that we have had, it was very nice to sit and look back like we had accomplished something really good, ”explained Estep. . “Much of it left in the summer. Last summer was so easy with COVID because no one had nowhere to go. We’ve had 30 guys here almost every night throughout the summer to train for the season. It was just football last summer to get these guys out of the house. There wasn’t much else they could do. This year was a normal offseason with people taking vacations, training for your winter or spring sports with football. I really think these guys who only focused on football last summer really helped what we were able to achieve. Everyone was there and every day. Combine the group of kids we had with them to take care of themselves and their families throughout the fall, we knew we had something special. It was the only thing that was normal for them.

And, what – or rather who – was normal, or even extraordinary, were the all-Ohio Wheelersburg winners.

On the boys’ side, senior forward Aaron Jolly was a three-round, repeat first-team Ohio player – having twice been named the Division III Southeast District Player of the Year.

Jolly also graduated as Wheelersburg’s all-time leading scorer, racking up 117 scorers over his impressive four years.

He was 48 as a senior and is the second pirate in school history to be twice named Southern Ohio Conference Division II and Southeast District (Division III) Player of the Year – while also being the second player in the program’s history to be named. all-Ohio three times.

He is the third Wheelersburg player to be awarded the All-Ohio First Team.

Jolly also ended his Pirate playing days with 50 career assists, as he not only has the most career goals but is tied for most Wheelersburg goals scored in a single game.

Against South Webster last season, Jolly scored eight seconds into the competition, tying the record for the fastest goal scored.

His list of the top 10 school records is long, but he ranks second to fifth in nine other categories, from assists to goals.

While Jolly was easily the Pirates’ main attacking force, very few goals were scored by goaltender Eric Green, who won All-State second-team accolades.

The Wheelersburg Iron Wall’s last line of defense on the back line, Green made 78 saves in his senior season, with an 86 percent save percentage.

Ahead of the state’s semi-final loss, the Wheelersburg defense allowed just seven goals all season – and recorded 15 shutouts in their 22 total games.

Until Mariemont totaled five goals, only Unioto with two had scored more than one goal in a game against the Pirates all season.

Defenders and / or midfielders Logan Davis, Lane Jordan, Carter McCorkle and Aidan Wright are also graduates.

Additionally, two Pirates were instrumental in their Region 11 Championship win over Grandview Heights – on offense Braxton Sammons and defense Josh Boggs – focused exclusively on football for their senior year.

“These guys were at the heart of what we did. I just hope those guys who were part of their training every day watching them play, it really marked them to go into this year, ”said the coach.

Estep admitted that the Pirates’ depth was not what it was, and their number dropped from 30 to 23.

Still, there are four returning starters, including seniors Jacob Saxby (striker / midfielder) and Preslee Etterling (defense).

Etterling is a three-year-old starter who anchors the defense, while four-year-old starter Saxby provides the most experience of the forward half-dozen.

Max Hagans, a quick second-year forward, is making headlines on this front, which also includes senior Nathan Sylvia and junior Jackson Schwamburger.

Sylvia, often the first pirate to leave the bench last season, was – according to Estep – the “best 12th man in our region”.

Other role-playing pirates who are already key cogs in this season’s machine include sophomores Connor Estep and Tyler Sommer, juniors Gavin Bradley and Nolan Wright, and seniors Austin Collier. and Braxton Rase.

Another senior, Gavin Rase, replaces Green in goal.

“All of these guys have the opportunity to show their worth and the experience they gained over the past year by training against these guys (the senior graduates) every day and working to get better. They are guys that we are going to rely on, ”said coach Estep. “They are excited to take on new roles and I think they are ready for it.”

And already, Wheelersburg is embarking on its journey in an attempt to repeat itself as regional champions.

Estep said the Pirates’ plan for their recall was in place.

“We have to trust what we did last year. The competitive practices that we were able to put in place and the environment that we created last year with competition and being ready when your time is called, we’re starting to see it again this year. We are building on that experience, ”he said. “It’s a process. We’re thrilled and these guys are looking forward to it as well.

Wheelersburg senior men’s football Nathan Sylvia (9) and Jacob Saxby (5) are two big returnees as the Pirates play for a callback to their first-ever regional championship in school history.

Wheelersburg senior men’s football Nathan Sylvia (9) and Jacob Saxby (5) are two big returnees as the Pirates play for a callback to their first-ever regional championship in school history.

“Burg boys soccer aims for the 2nd regional title

Contact Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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